MDC-T MPs Thursday took to task Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka on why the government’s land distribution exercise remained partisan leaving out MDC members, especially MPs.
The minister was grilled by the MPs when he was appearing before parliament’s portfolio on agriculture.
MDC-T (Proportional Representative) MP Joyce Makonya also questioned the minister on the transparency of the land reform programme and why the 99-year farm leases were being handled by the government.
She also asked the minister to clarify reports some resettled farmers were being removed from their land to pave way for evicted white farmers.
However, MPs from the MDC-T interjected her shouting; “Yes! We also want those farms.”
“The 99-year-lease issue has not been clear and if those MPs in this committee do not understand what is going on and even after applying for the lease agreements, they still have nothing,” Makonya added.
“What about those who are out there in communities. Have you as government spread the information on the status of the 99-year leases to the people? We recently heard that farms were being given back to the white people,” she said, adding black farmers on resettled land were anxious the government would evict them soon.
Also commenting on the matter, Zanu PF MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena said MDC’s policy on land was that no party member should access land, but this had changed and they wanted farms.
“Minister, the burning issue here is that MDC’s land policy in the past was that no one member should accept a farm from the government. Now you see what I am saying is that they also want farms,” he said.
“Give them farms when they come to your offices and treat them as citizens. Do not look at politics. They are citizens of Zimbabwe and want to engage in farming as well.”
However, Masuku appeared to have ignored the request for land and instead focused his presentation on 99-year leases, which financial institutions have argued were not bankable.
“Land is vested in the President and cannot be transferred because its ownership is not a measure of productivity. I think the issue of title deeds is taken out of context,” he said.
I have often said you do not need to own a building in order to operate it. If you want to do business, you can rent, you don’t need to own a house. Everyone seems to be saying ‘I need to own the land in order to farm’. That is a wrong approach to farming. The land is vested in the President for the right reasons.”
“Land ownership and farming are different. Farming is a business which happens on land, so the two are separate and often we think they are not. There must be a distinction. There is not necessarily a link between land ownership and the transfer of land.
“The land is not transferable because it is vested in the President and the occupier is given a lease in form of a permit if you are A1 or offer letter if it is A2 Model and if you have shown production or productivity you are given a 99-year lease. These are tenure documents on State land, it is not transferable.”
He added negotiations with financial institutions would continue, but they had revived the Agriculture Financing Corporation (AFC) to provide funding to agriculture.
“We have taken this deliberate step to ensure that the agriculture space can be adequately funded. In fact, in terms of construction of AFC, we are saying the viability of any entity depends on the viability of the project proposal not on who is on the piece of land or tenure document. That is where we are going and I hope that banks will join us.”
On the 99-year leases, Masuka said his government had issued 400 leases out of 18 000 potential farmers requiring the document adding more will be issued soon.