Monday, 1 November 2021

LAND SEEKING DIASPORANS TARGETED IN KICKBACKS

THE Department of Lands in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement has degenerated into a haven of corruption as officers demand kickbacks for land allocations.

The department’s officers have introduced a “something for something and nothing for nothing” concept, targeting especially Zimbabweans in the diaspora that want to invest in land.

Government has reviewed the policy on allocation of vacant land and restructured the Provincial and District Lands Committees to curb the rampant corruption.

This was said by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, addressing senior officers in the Lands Department attending a land management and distribution meeting in Gweru yesterday.

“The Lands Department now has a bad reputation. The department has degenerated into a haven of corruption activities as officers demand kickbacks in land allocations and that is very bad. We need to clean that image now by doing the right things in a professional manner,” he said.

Dr Masuka said there are land officers, whose offices are only accessible to people that can afford to pay kickbacks.

“There are land officers whose offices are entered only by those with something in their pockets. Something for something and nothing for nothing, and that is corruption in land allocation. Corruption, corrupt activities must stop henceforth,” he said.

To show how corrupt some land officers have become, Dr Masuka said he has been receiving phone calls from land seekers, who reveal to him their schedule number, which should be a confidential matter.

“The land officers who would have received kickbacks go to the extent of giving confidential information about the process of land allocation. Planning, preparation of schedules and numbers are done by the ministry officials, but I get phone calls from people giving me their schedule number. That shows that the officer will be trying to please his/her benefactor because such information as schedule numbers are private and confidential,” he said.

Dr Masuka said land was an economic enabler which must be allocated to deserving people so that agriculture contributes to the growth of the economy in line with Vision 2030.

“Land is an economic enabler; the land must be used to unlock value and must be allocated in a transparent manner. Land can be used to maximise the productivity of the agricultural sector so that the country earns foreign currency,” he said.

Dr Masuka reiterated the need for lands officers to be fair and transparent.

“There is a backlog of about 250 000 people who applied for land and these applications should be dealt with in fairness and transparency. We must do away with corruption,” he said.

He said the revised guidelines on allocation of land will target multiple farm owners, abandoned farms, derelict land and underutilised farms.

“Government has also now issued revised guidelines to provincial and district land committees to ensure that the first four categories are the priority categories for identification of vacant land and for the allocation of land.

“As a civil servant, I think you should strive to leave a lasting legacy in the area of operation. Now we have land officers who set targets, for example, to have two Mercedes Benz vehicles in two years from corruption, which is wrong.”

Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement chief director human resources, Mr George Chijarira said the unscrupulous lands officers were targeting Zimbabweans in the diaspora, who have become their cash cows.

He said reports of lands officers demanding cattle from potential land beneficiaries have also reached the ministry.

“There are a lot of people in the diaspora who want land and the land officers have found their cash cow from that constituency.

“There are reports where land officers are demanding bribes from those in the United Kingdom and other countries. That constituency is now their cash cow. Some people have paid officers livestock before their names are put on the land waiting list. We hear these stories and you must know that it is an act of misconduct and is also criminal. Anyone found on the wrong side will face the full wrath of the law,” said Mr Chijarira.

Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Larry Mavima said Zimbabwe will reemerge as the bread basket of Africa through President Mnangagwa’s efforts to revive the agricultural sector.

He said Government has been providing farming inputs on time as a way of supporting farmers for the growth of the agriculture sector.

“With the leadership of President Mnangagwa, agriculture is being revived and Zimbabwe will re-emerge as the bread basket of Africa. The meeting is coming at the right time to address issues to do with land applications, the redistribution of underutilised land as well as other land related issues,” said Minister Mavima. Chronicle

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