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Dump this 99-year lease nonsense

Editorials

ZIMBABWE’S land issue has cracked our heads for too long to a point that we are now unable to utilise the God-given natural resource for our own good.

As we write, millions of Zimbabweans face hunger and possible starvation yet they live in a country with some of the world’s most productive soils that once upon a time earned it the regional grain basket status.

It has been decades since Zimbabwe adequately fed itself even after clamouring in 2000 to parcel out arable commercial land to many landless people.

And it is quite odd or rather curious that the leadership of the country, who happen to have been around since the country’s independence in 1980, appear clueless as to how to rediscover Zimbabwe’s agricultural potential.

Serve for empty talk that Zimbabwe is set for a bumper harvest of this or that — plentiful harvests that later turn out to have been driven by a load of hot air — the country has increasingly become food insecure each passing year.

The leadership has also tried to serve face by pumping billions of dollars supporting farmers by dishing out all manner of inputs, but this has, unfortunately, proved that all their efforts are being poured into a bottomless chasm.

Meanwhile, the solution to the country’s poor agricultural performance is staring at our leaders straight in the eye, yet, somehow for some funny reason, they appear blankly staring into horizons yonder.

This week these dear leaders of ours were toying around the idea of revisiting the 99-year leases they introduced years back following the chaotic 2000 land invasions. By the way these are pieces of virtually useless printed bond papers that have been rejected by banks and all sane money lenders, who have dismissed them as risky as they are unbankable.

In his own admission, Lands minister Anxious Masuka told us this week that the 99-year lease “was not a permit for you to operate, it was just a(n) (offer) letter”.

And so now: Eureka! The very able leaders have, according to Masuka, come up with a very brilliant idea: “All those who are being given land now will not be given this securitised permit. Those that already have offer letters will be requested to submit them in due course so that we give you securitised permits to remove crooks in the process.”

Wow! Brilliant!

However, albeit sadly, the permit remains yet another piece of printed useless bond paper that government, again according to Masuka, is still pondering its “bankability or transferability will motivate farmers to produce”. Rechristening the 99-year lease as “securitised permit” is tantamount to pasting thick lipstick on a bullfrog.

Why is our government — we all believe is a government for and by the people — so averse to empowering its own people, who freed themselves from colonial rule — by giving them title to their own land to make it bankable and transferable?

When the colonisers invaded Zimbabwe, they gave themselves title to the looted land, yet us — the owners of the land, are finding it very difficult, if not impossible, to do the same.

There is absolutely something wrong with how our government is handling this land issue and the 99-year lease issue is just a red herring by a government that is literally refusing to empower its own people after nationalising all farmland soon after using its own people to grab the land from former white commercial farmers who had title to the land.

If this government is a government by and for the people, it should do away with this 99-year lease nonsense and give the people title to their ancestral land. Only that way can meaningful production start happening on these farms.

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