PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe continues to tighten the screws on the remaining white farmers as government has come up with a potentially discriminatory policy which limits their leases to just five years while black counterparts will enjoy 99-year long leases.
This comes 17 years after the violent and unplanned land reform programme which saw the majority of white farmers chased off their properties without compensation.
Mugabe said the programme as aimed at correcting historic injustices in the distribution of land in the country.
The campaign, which was blamed for the collapse in agricultural productivity, saw the number of white commercial farmers in the country being reduced from more than 4,500 to just over 400 who continue to be threatened with eviction by Mugabe.
On Saturday, lands minister Douglas Mombeshora said resettled black farmers would be issued with the 99-year leases which are immediately bankable while the remaining white farmers will have their reviewed every fifth year.
“The law says one can get an offer letter and only get a 99-year lease after three years upon assessment by government to verify levels of production and infrastructure that would have been developed on that piece of land during the period under review,” the Minister said while responding to questions from chiefs at the Annual National Council of Chiefs Conference in Bulawayo on Saturday.
He added, “But we have refined the lease to be bankable, and it defies logic to give the lease after three years and upon seeing production because there will not be any production as the farmer would have failed to get funding.
“Therefore, farmers need the lease first so that they access funding from the banks. We are looking at ensuring that farmers get 99-year leases at the time they go onto the land or are approved to occupy a piece of land.”
The remaining white farmers are however exempt from the facility.
“There are white farmers who have been approved by our provincial officers to continue farming after satisfying a number of requirements,” said Mombeshora.
“We will be giving such farmers five-year leases that are subject to renewal upon meeting certain conditions at the expiry of the documents. This will enable us to collect land taxes from these farmers.”
However, some of the resettled black farmers have resorted to leasing out the land to whites while others have entered into partnerships without engaging the ministry. Government has threatened to investigate these cases which it admits appear to be many.
“We do not want a situation where we repossess land from a white farmer and then wake up to see that farmer back again under the guise of a partnership,” said Mombeshora.