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Beneficiaries of the controversial land reform exercise will soon be expected to pay rent for their farms as part of ZANU PF party’s alternative methods of raising funds.

Senior officials at the Lands Ministry told separate gatherings that the ruling party had already passed the new rental structure which will become effective as soon as Cabinet stamps its approval.

Speaking at a business sector congress in Victoria Falls recently, Lands Minister Douglas Mombeshora said the money will fund a land audit and the processing of 99-year leases for the farmers.

The target will be A1 and A2 farmers, as well as plantations and small-scale land owners. A1 farmers will pay $10 annually and the rest $3 per hectare per year.

At least 300,000 people received land following ZANU PF’s compulsory land acquisition scheme which began with farm invasions in 1999. Thousands of white commercial farmers were dispossessed and some murdered during the process. Hundreds of thousands of farm workers lost their homes and livelihoods.

If the scheme eventually goes ahead, the government stands to make at least $6,000 in rentals from each A2 farmer with a 2,000 hectare-plot.

Of the 1,500 A2 farmers whose papers have been approved, the ministry has issued only 10 leases, and at this rate “it would take about 75 years to clear the 1,500 documents”, the Herald noted.

Minister Mombeshora’s subordinate, Sophia Tsvakwi, told a separate gathering in Kariba that the rentals would promote productivity on farms as farmers would work hard to raise the required amounts.

But opposition politician and former Energy Minister Elton Mangoma said ZANU PF was “as usual going about it the wrong way”.

“While we agree that the land reform had to be done we will continue to protest the way it was and continues to be done. What they are doing now is to try and tax people off the land.

“We know that government is broke so they are trying to tax anything and everything in a bid to raise money.”

Mangoma said taxing the plot owners will not necessarily mean that the processing of the land leases will be expedited, adding that the government is well-known for misappropriating funds.

“In any case we know that the government doesn’t want to issue out those 99-year leases because doing so will mean people will feel more secure and therefore less dependent on ZANU PF.”

Without the leases, the new farmers cannot secure loans from banks which require collateral, and many of them say this is affecting their productivity on the land.

Mangoma said despite recent land surveys revealing serious discrepancies in the land allocation exercise, the ruling party has been reluctant to correct these “either because its officials are multiple farm owners or because it was never their intention to genuinely empower Zimbabweans.”

One recent survey showed that 10-year-olds were amongst the country’s 300,000 land beneficiaries.

Earlier this year the West, which is literally funding many of Zimbabwe’s basic programmes, gave the ruling party at least $7 million to carry out a land audit. But Mombeshora says his ministry requires $35 million for a comprehensive exercise.

Source : SW Radio Africa