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Govt orders illegal settlers off State land

Precious Manomano-Herald Reporter

FOLLOWING the recent up-tick in illegal settlements on agricultural land and pastures across rural and urban areas, Government has ordered the concerned culprits to promptly vacate the areas or face the wrath of the law.

According to the Land Commission Act, it is a criminal offence in terms of the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act to occupy State land without lawful authority in the form of a permit, an offer letter or a lease.

Traditional leaders are also not allowed to sell land and those found guilty will be punished.

Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Dr Anxious Masuka said Government would not regularise those that settle themselves on State land without procedurally issued tenure documents adding that the full wrath of the law would be applied in such cases.

“Government has noted with concern the increased number of illegal settlers on agricultural land. As a result, the public is notified that only the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is authorised to issue tenure documents on agricultural land, as he administers relevant Acts assigned to him by the President,” he said.

Masvingo Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Ezra Chadzamira echoed Dr Masuka’s warning urging the people in question not to continue residing on illegal land, but follow the correct procedures.

“You are ordered to vacate immediately and follow the due processes in acquiring land. Government condemns without any reservation the illegal settlements, occupations, parcelling out and selling of the land without the permission of relevant authorities. 

“The land belongs to the President. No one, but the delegated powers in various departments has permission to parcel out land. Report such activities,’’ he said.

Recently, the Government directed all local authorities to cease the selling of communal and agricultural land with immediate effect.

Ordinary Zimbabweans have welcomed the initiative saying it was important for people to acquire land legally saying such practices were violating land reform regulations, which are critical in preserving the environment.

Mr Stanley Magwaza of Warren Park 1 said land meant for farming should not be used for other purposes.

“This is a positive step in the right direction. We appreciate the Government’s effort and we are there to support the move. We are also assured of food security if the land is utilised in line with its purpose. 

“A residential area cannot be similar to agricultural land. Moreover, this creates a lot of problems because such land is not suitable for people to settle on,” he said.

Mr John Kandiero of Kambuzuma said people should make sure they follow proper procedures to acquire land so that they don’t ruin the lives of future generations.

“Agricultural lands are not for residential purposes. We are seeing families suffering because of floods, diseases spreading because the land is not properly serviced to ensure proper drainage with drinking water likely to be contaminated leading to the spread of diseases,” he said.

Mr Terrence Chakanyuka of Hopley Farm said building houses on agricultural land compromised food and nutrition security.

‘’Such actions are detrimental to the push to achieve food and nutrition security. Land should be acquired legally,’’ he said.

It is a criminal offence, in terms of the Zimbabwe Land Commission Act (Chapter 20;29) and the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act (Chapter 20;28), to occupy State land without lawful authority in the form of a permit, an offer letter or                           lease.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Lands Commission (ZLC) successfully completed its land audit exercise, coming up with a Land Information Management System (LIMS), which will tackle issues such as multiple farm ownerships and double allocations. President Mnangagwa recently received the final report, which covered 254 538 farms countrywide.

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