The land reform process was borne out of legitimate historical injustices, but the chaotic manner of its enactment has no place in the quest to re-establish Zimbabwe’s vaunted place as a breadbasket of Africa. Agricultural paedophiles and land speculative perverts need to be separated away from the real women and men committed to the full time engagement in farming. Land is indeed an extension of our very souls, a measure of our social and cultural rubric, and a denominator of our political and economic values. It’s far too valuable and precious to be used as a political Valentine gift to the inept and clueless denizens scarring our great landscape and feeding on the contemptible falsehood of calling themselves “ farmers”!
True land reform involves the legal transfer of land from the powerful to the less powerful. If it ends up creating more pockets of inequity and land hoarding by new elite then for all purposes it becomes land replacement...the virtual transfer of ownership from old powerful minorities to new corrupt powerful minorities. My administration will seek to support true single farm holders, and swiftly move to infuse and unlock new capital, certainty, experience, and talent from the old farmers who are still interested in farming. This would be done by reducing farm sizes in many instances, taking away farms from unproductive farmers, introducing a tax regime that encourages production and penalizes multi-farm ownership and land hoarding. Production will spike when many choose between dodgy civil service work commitment and full-time farming. Those who can’t choose will have the choice made for them through swift repossession. There is enough land to accommodate serious, committed, well capitalized and experienced new and old farmers in Zimbabwe.
My administration will quickly move to harness committed old farmers of talent and experience and expeditiously move to offer just compensation for all their improvements through new commitments from the international community that equally wishes to turn a new leaf in its engagement with a Zimbabwe that protects private property rights. A new approach to farming and land ownership is needed in Zimbabwe and what’s currently lacking is leadership to think through this differently. There is need to create a new category of farm ownership beyond subsistence and commercial. This would be new specialized designated and specialized intensive industrial farming land. This would be a cadre of crack farmers drawn from the available pool of our experienced white and black farmers that would operate extensive magnet or model farms in all the major farming regions of the country. They will execute on the mandate that ARDA failed to live up to, through operation of national strategic and niche farming areas supported by generous tax incentives. This qualified tax exemption certification would also be a way to make good on some of the outstanding compensation claims from old farmers. Yes, I am saying compensate them for improvements through giving them new farms with special tax exemptions provided they meet set production quotas. These magnet farms would act as a training reservoir for the many new farmers and farms surrounding them. As full-fledged corporations the new extensive, intensive farming operations will accommodate groups of old farmers each. Zimbabwe as a nation wins through enhanced food security, and unlocking of new international investment capital. We can’t let old farming talent go to waste.
There should be an urgent stop to the agricultural nanny-state where mere land ownership is readily abused as a looting platform through access to cheap loans and agro-inputs. We need to move away from land-banditry to a new land-husbandry system that creates clear and tradable security of tenure. Farming is a capital intensive undertaking and capital loves the comfort of security. Without security of tenure we can forget national food security and the eradication of rural poverty. Land is a great denominator of wealth, and thus we need to bring dead rural assets into the economic mainstream by crafting new tradable security instruments for communal land. This will help break the cycle of poverty by valuing real assets in the hands of our common people. There is no economic value to the perpetuation of the cultural sentimental value of rural land as poor subsistence farming lots and favoured traditional burial grounds, after all the existing system perpetuates false totem-specific division between our common people!.
The successful inclusion of new black small farmers into the lucrative tobacco sector has been characterised by massive environmental degradation of catastrophic proportions. There should be a lot more support that should go towards their training in environmentally sustainable farming. It will take much massive bio-remediation investment to forestall degradation. There is no better training than can be responsibly harnessed from the readily available pools of farming talent and experience abundantly available in our valuable mostly white old farmers. Why kick them out and bring the Chinese and others who are plain less able will take many more years to understand our farming. Zeal will never be a substitute for competence and experience. It’s better to shorten the learning curve by bringing in those who have acquitted themselves well in this type of endeavour. My administration will be open to bringing into the fold white farmers because it will be built on the acute realization that the new Zimbabwe we deserve is not an idyllic island of happy black natives, but a natural home for all born in it and all those who choose to call it home. Black supremacy is not a freeway to prosperity; our farming like our national fabric needs to be fully cognisant of the multi-racial nature of our make-up. We are better for it and not weaker, and farming is no exception from this realism.
My administration will usher in a new era of great harvests as many cell-phone farmers will certainly opt out of the new lean, mean and keen non-partisan civil service of all talents. Many are part-time farmers because they wish to utilize their various government positions to assure themselves slices and crumbs from different agro-support schemes. Many of the failed farmers are also failed politicians; they keep to their politics to guarantee them continued tenuous access to land. These failed farmers would also be offered a way out through open selling of their land on the land market, thereby unlocking value to themselves and the nation. It will also be in kind and just consideration to their many years of lost savings working in the civil service. With these pockets of inefficiency and failure plugged away local farming will be back in a big way.
Our farming has been a handy indicator of our type of politics. We have hobbled from one disaster season after another to the extent that we have become a nation of disaster creators and experts. However historically and economically justified, our series of policing mis-steps have created some disaster out of something so justified. The series of farming disasters we have experienced point to a third hand of disaster creation and management. We now have a system of government that understands that it will not last when people thrive. It’s no accident that agro-inputs are always availed late.
In Zimbabwe immoral, amoral and mediocre people had the sense enough to organize themselves into powerful cartels, and clubs of plunder. The problem is that true people of excellence, people of faith, are quick to just organize themselves into prayer circles and pray for things to change day in and day out pining for divine happenstance. In 2012 I foresee an action orientation to usher in a period of the manifestation restorative justice for a people long abused.
We are the change we seek, and one of the first ports of call for change in my administration would certainly be land and agricultural reform policing and implementation.
Dr Raymond Chamba