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Zimbabwe: Small-scale farmers still waiting to benefit from land resettlement program (by Zenzele Ndebele, for Farm Radio Weekly in Zimbabwe)

Elliot Ndlovu frequently visits the nearby Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement office in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. His goal is to claim his share of land from the government’s land resettlement program. Fifty-seven year-old Mr. Ndlovu says, “I have been on the waiting list since 2003, and each time I go to the lands office I am told there are no farms available − but other people are allocated land every day.”

Since independence, land has been a central issue in Zimbabwe. In July 2000, the government launched the Fast Track Land Reform program. After a controversial resettlement process, a war of words has erupted over land in the western region of Matebeleland.

Villagers are accusing the government of resettling people who are not from the region. Mr. Ndlovu and other farmers who hail from Matebeleland say they have been sidelined in the land resettlement program. They claim that the people who were resettled in the area are from other regions.

Alfred Sibanda is a 44-year-old small-scale farmer in Figtree, about 40 kilometres northwest of Bulawayo. He claims that, although he applied in 2003, he is yet to be allocated his piece of land. He says, “I regret not invading the nearby farm. Some of us behaved like good citizens. The people who were allocated land here come [from] as far as Harare.”

Mr. Sibanda says similar mis-allocations of land also happened in Marula, 20 kilometres from Figtree. He wonders why the government allocates land to outsiders, and leaves the traditional owners with nothing. He explains, “All this land up to Plumtree about 60 kilometres from here belongs to our forefathers.”

Mr. Sibanda’s grandfather is buried in the middle of a commercial farm 10 kilometres from his house. He says, “I do not have access to the land where my father was buried because the area was turned into a game sanctuary. I worked as a farm worker for the rest of my life and today I cannot benefit from the land reform.”

Many people believed that land reform would address the problem of land shortages. Gifford Moyo is a social commentator and member of an advocacy group in Bulawayo which fights for the rights of the Ndebele people. He warned that if the land issue was not handled properly, it might erupt into a serious conflict. He says, “The primary objective of going to war was to get back our land which was taken by the colonial regime. Now, if this government is failing to properly address the issue of land, the question is ‘Why did we go to war?’ ”

Methuseli Moyo is a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU). He says it is very discouraging that all the prime lands in Matebeleland have been allocated to people outside Matebeleland.

Mr. Andrew Langa is ZANU PF’s chairperson in Matebeleland province and the Deputy Minister of Public Service. He says the land resettlement allegations are not true, stating, “Most of the people who claim that they did not benefit from land reform did not apply for the land. What I know is that there is no land for Matebeleland or Mashonaland people, but there is land for Zimbabweans.” He continues, “When we started the land reform, we never said we are going to resettle people according to their languages or where they come from.”