15 Sept 2003

Mugabe receives report of Presidential Land Review Committee



A government report into Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme has opened a can of worms, throwing the spotlight on corruption surrounding the ownership of multiple farms by senior government officials and others close to the establishment. To date only one politician has publicly surrendered his extra farms to the state, a month after the expiry of a two-week deadline set by President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe's deadline marked his first response to the damning report by the Presidential Land Review Committee that he appointed in May to assess the success of his government's controversial land reform programme. The report reveals gross irregularities and corruption in the allocation of land since the ”fast track” land reform programme began in 2000. In addition, it is said to expose the exaggeration that over 300,000 landless families had been resettled.

Prompted by this report President Mugabe on July 30 gave his party colleagues with multiple farms until Aug. 13 to relinquish the extra properties. To date only Obert Mpofu, the governor of the Matabeleland North province, declared he was surrendering two state farms he had leased in the productive Nyamandlovu area. He retains a farm he bought before the land reform programme began. However, Mpofu is understood to have recently taken over two hunting concessions, Railways Farm 40 and farm 41 located on the edge of the country's biggest game reserve, the 14,000-hectare Hwange National Park. In the rest of the country's nine provinces, officials have maintained a deafening silence over surrendering their extra properties.

However, speaking when he officially received the report on Sep. 11, Mugabe has promised to act on the recommendations of the Presidential land Review Committee, a hint that he may sack those of his Cabinet members implicated in the report.

However, political analyst Lovemore Madhuku says there is no way there can be a return of these farms under the current regime which he says is tainted by corruption. He says no politician will return the farms knowing his colleagues are corrupt too, be it in other areas. „No-one in ZANU-PF has a moral high ground to impose the rules,” he says. ”Land is merely one area of their massive corruption enterprise.” A farm in Zimbabwe is the ultimate prize for a career in politics. Almost the entire leadership in government and within the ruling ZANU-PF party is known to have at least one farm each.

Since May 2000 when the government lost a crucial referendum on a new constitution, it has embarked on a crude and rather populist land reform exercise, shortly before a crucial parliamentary election it was projected to lose. The reason for the land reform exercise was to correct colonial injustices in landownership which was one of the main reasons Zimbabweans fought a 15-year-long bush war that culminated in independence in 1980. However, coming 20 years after independence and with no clear criteria on intended beneficiaries, many of the choice farms have ended up in the hands of government officials, judges and other well-connected individuals. (IPS)

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