October 16, 2003

ZIMBABWE: Utete land report revised

The Presidential Land Review Committee has drastically revised downwards the official number of people that have benefited from the controversial land reform programme which has since run into a wall of negative sentiment after it coincided with a dip into an unprecedented economic meltdown.

This not only compromises the country's food security situation, but also has a negative impact on the feeble economy as agriculture has, for some time, had the biggest single sectoral contribution to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Prior to the fast-track land reform, agriculture used to contribute about 17 percent of the country's GDP ahead of manufacturing which had slumped to 15 percent from 24 percent. The report, finalised last August but still yet to be made public, says that 127.192 households were resettled under the A1 model, which is suitable for small-scale farming. Only 7.260 households were given pieces of land under the A2 scheme meant for commercial agriculture compared to about 50.000 black farmers that were supposed to benefit under the scheme.

Officially, 300.000 people were supposed to have been resettled under the just completed land reform process during which the government had reportedly acquired 11 million hectares of farmland.

The report seems to vindicate widely-held concerns that the land reform has not benefited as many people as it was intended to. While the number of resettled black farmers could easily sustain local consumption and leave surpluses for export, what had been particularly worrying was the slow take-up.

On farm workers, the report said a number of them were among the resettled but others had secured employment with the new farmers. There were also others who opted to either return to their countries of origin or to their rural homes in and around Zimbabwe. A third category of the farm workers remained on the farms, "pending a determination of their fate by government."

Although the report mentions the issue of multiple farm ownership, Zimbabweans who had kept their powder dry ahead of the publication of the report hoping for a full disclosure, will be disappointed because this part of the report is silent on the identity of those who own more than one farm. (Financial Gazette, Harare)

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