Only 500 out of 23 000 Zimbabwe farmers have been issued 99-year leases

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Only 500 out of 23 000 A2 farmers have been issued 99-year leases because the process was very cumbersome and it has now been changed, Lands and Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka told Parliament yesterday.

He said that initially, a farmer had to get an A2 offer letter. After five years on the property and of development, the farmer would opt to apply for a 99-Year Lease and pay an assessment fee.  That assessment fee would enable the Department of Lands to go on to the property and do an assessment.

This was changed when the Land Commission Act was promulgated. A 99-year lease could no longer be issued without reference to the Zimbabwe Land Commission.

“Madam Speaker, through this cumbersome process, we have issued under 500 99-Year Leases of the 23 000 A2 farmers,” Masuka said.

The process was changed last year as follows:

“First, the offer letter was merely a piece of paper, we then issued a securitised A2 permit.  All new offers for the land are now securitised A2 permits which would allow farmers some security of tenure.  All A2 farmers automatically qualify for 99-Year Leases now.  No one needs to apply for a 99- Year Lease and this is the policy position of Government.

“We introduced what we call the production and productivity return form.  It is an annual production and productivity form which A1 and A2 farmers should complete and an assessment team assesses the level of production and productivity on the farm and recommends for the automatic issuance of a 99-Year Lease.

“This process will start this year, 2023 and we have said farmers ought to complete the production and productivity returns by the 31st March, 2023.  This enables them to be assessed for such.  This is the correct position in relation to 99-Year Leases,” he said

HON. BRIG. GEN (RTD.) MAYIHLOME: My question is directed to the Hon. Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement.  There were farms that were wrongly gazetted belonging to indigenous farmers.  These farms were supposed to be delisted and reallocated back to the original owners but this has taken close to 20 years to be done.  What is holding back the reallocation or delisting of these farms.

THE MINISTER OF LANDS, AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, WATER, CLIMATE AND RURAL RESETTLEMENT (HON. DR. MASUKA):  Thank you Madam Speaker and I thank Hon. Mayihlome for the question.  In 2020, Government put in place Statutory Instrument 62 which provided a legal basis for consideration for the return of such properties to affected farmers.  The Ministry established a Committee to consider applications as per Statutory Instrument 62.  We have received quite a number. I am not too sure what the Hon. Member wants us to do.  We consider this based on applications that are received from farmers.

However, Madam Speaker, should there be specific names and areas that the Hon. Member has, he can submit those and we can look at those expeditiously in terms of the existing laws.  Thank you Madam Speaker.

HON. MARKHAM:  Thank you Madam Speaker.  Could the Minister enlighten us on the progress with the much vaulted 99-Year Leases?  Why is it  that not one indigenous farmer has yet been given a 99-Year Lease coupled with the fact that he is not even included in any compensation deal for those 600, by his figures, who were evicted from their farms?  Thank you.

HON. DR. MASUKA:  Thank you Madam Speaker and I want to thank Hon. Markham for the question.  Let me start by correcting the statement; it is not true that indigenous people have not been given 99-Year Leases.  Let me put this into context and clarify a few issues.  The process of the issuance of the 99-Year Lease originally was that a farmer would get an A2 offer letter, after five years on the property and of development, the farmer would opt to apply for a 99-Year Lease and pay an assessment fee.  That assessment fee would enable the Department of Lands to go on to the property and do an assessment.

Madam Speaker, when the Land Commission Act was promulgated, that changed to say that a 99-Year Lease may not be issued by the Minister without reference to the Zimbabwe Land Commission which created a second level of verification.  Madam Speaker, that assessment would then leave the Ministry’s Department of Lands and be submitted to the Zimbabwe Land Commission who would also do their own assessment of whether the farmer would get a 99-Year Lease or not.  Then they would recommend to the Minister whether an issuance of the 99-Year Lease is appropriate or not.

Madam Speaker, through this cumbersome process, we have issued under 500 99-Year Leases of the 23 000 A2 farmers.  Noting this very cumbersome process, Government last year changed the policy on the issuance of 99-Year Leases as follows:

First, the offer letter was merely a piece of paper, we then issued a securitised A2 permit.  All new offers for the land are now securitised A2 permits which would allow farmers some security of tenure.  All A2 farmers automatically qualify for 99-Year Leases now.  No one needs to apply for a 99- Year Lease and this is the policy position of Government.   We introduced what we call the production and productivity return form.  It is an annual production and productivity form which A1 and A2 farmers should complete and an assessment team assesses the level of production and productivity on the farm and recommends for the automatic issuance of a 99-Year Lease.  This process will start this year, 2023 and we have said farmers ought to complete the production and productivity returns by the 31st March, 2023.  This enables them to be assessed for such.  This is the correct position in relation to 99-Year Leases.

Futuristically, I hope this august House will find it fit to support the suggestions in the amendments to the Land Commission Act which will separate the administrative processes of land from the oversight role on land which will be the responsibility of the Zimbabwe Land Commission.  Once that happens, we will be able to issue 99-Year Leases without reference to the Zimbabwe Land Commission because currently, they seem to be both a referee and a player in this regard.  We will be able to expedite that if we get support from the august House. Thank you Madam Speaker.

HON. BITI:  Madam Speaker Ma’am, the issuance by the Government through the esteemed Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Masuka of upgrading the offer letter into a security, to quote him, a securitised certificate of occupation by A2 farmers, is an acknowledgement of the insecurity associated with the offer letter.  I submit Madam Speaker Ma’am that the certificate of occupation A2 which is not backed by a legal instrument, an Act of Parliament has no difference at all with the original letter.  Why is it that the Minister and the Government are not complying with Chapter 16 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which says, among other things, that any farmer and farm owner and any beneficiary of the Land Reform Programme needs security of tenure and needs some form of title which can be hypothecated?  I thank you.

HON. DR. MASUKA: I thank Hon. Biti for the supplementary question.  The securitised offer letter is already recognisable in terms of the law and in terms of the Finance Act of 2023.  So, it is already included in that in order to enhance production and productivity – so that has been recognised already.

However, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the AG, the Ministry of Finance and our Ministry, are currently seized with the Agrarian Reform laws which will take into consideration many aspects that have been raised by the Hon. Member including improving the tenure aspect and we can have some discussion at some stage on that. I thank you.

Source: InsiderZim