- Zimbabwean officials deny earlier government reports of a programme to nationalise all productive land, saying lease arrangements were only being applied on land seized from commercial farmers through the land reform. The diverging reports may reveal a split among ruling party factions.
Land Reform Minister John Nkomo last week told the state-controlled 'Herald' that "all land shall be resettled as state property," according to government plans. Land owners instead were to receive 99-year leasing contracts from the state, the Minister was quoted as saying.
This announcement is now categorically rejected in a government statement. Information Minister Jonathan Moyo corrected his colleague, saying that there had not been any change of the Zimbabwean government policy or law in respect of land tenure and ownership.
- Apart from existing forms of land tenure which remain in force and legally valid, land acquired under the fast-track and current phase of land reforms automatically reverts to the state, with beneficiaries accessing it under 99-year lease agreements with the state for general agricultural use, and 25-year lease agreements for conservancies, the statement said.
The Ministry of Information further emphasised that "this position only applies to land acquired by the state under land reforms, and does not in any way invalidate or supersede other lawful forms of tenure which, in any case, are recognised and protected by the laws of the land."
Lease contracts thus, according to the government statement, only were made for those lands seized from the mostly white commercial farmers during the land reform. Since 2000, the Zimbabwean government has confiscated almost 70 percent of the country's productive farmland, which has been redistributed with 99-year leases.
Most of the country's productive lands thus already are on state hands. The nationalising scheme as presented by Minister Nkomo last week however also would have included less productive lands and properties not used for agricultural purposes.
According to several observers, the diverging versions on the future of Zimbabwe's controversial land reform may mirror the split into two factions of the ruling Zanu-PF party. Ministers Moyo and Nkomo represent two of the most prominent figures in President Robert Mugabe's cabinet and are both probable candidates for his succession.
'The Herald' today published the Information Minister's denial of plans to nationalise all lands. At the same time, the ruling party organ maintained that Minister Nkomo "last week said government had stepped up efforts to acquire more land with the sole objective of nationalising all productive farmland, from crop fields to conservancies."
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