Inter Ministerial Committee to meet Presidium over illegal settlements

THE inter-ministerial committee tasked with handling issues to do with illegal settlements on State land is expected meet the Presidium early next week to discuss a report from Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, after which the next course of action will be decided.

This was said yesterday by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka, while officially opening a meeting for Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution from the country’s 10 provinces.

The monthly interactive meeting was held at Zhovhe Lodge, some 80km west of Beitbridge town.

Realising the prevalence of cases where people were illegally resettling themselves on State or council land, Dr Masuka issued a statement on November 28 last year and another one on January 3 this year, advising the nation that State land was not for sale.

He said those seeking to occupy land were supposed to follow the correct procedures. 

“On the issues regarding the ongoing ‘Operation no to land barons’, we had very extensive discussions with the Acting President Kembo Mohadi and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga over the issue of illegal settlements.

“An inter-ministerial committee that I chair was then set up. There are further directions given to the committee so we are going to meet with the Police Commissioner General on Monday to receive a report on the progress made since the start of ‘Operation No to Land Barons’ which started on January 10 running until February 9,” said Dr Masuka.

“To date, hundreds of land barons have been arrested and this blitz has also led to some awareness. I think this ought not to be just a blitz, but continued education that settlement on State land without authority is illegal and attracts the wrath of the law”.

He said there was a need for continued communication to advise those who require land on what needs to be done before settlement.

Dr Masuka said it was critical for people to settle legally, especially in resettlement areas where there were increasing tendencies by village heads to sell land near growth points and urban settlements.

The Government, he said, was not relenting in its quest to restore sanity on the issue.

“The sale of land by village heads is worrisome and we have seen some being arrested. It is an aspect that we will also discuss on Monday and will be able to get further guidance from the Presidency as to the way forward,” said the Minister.

On Tuesday, Local Government Minister Winston Chitando issued a statement voicing concern over developments in Ward 16 of Harare City, which covers Mabelreign suburb.

Minister Chitando said it was illegal to occupy green-ways or parcel out State or council land without authority, for whatever purpose.

So far, 3 700 land barons have been arrested while several illegal settlers were interviewed by the police to facilitate investigations. Turning to issues of food security, Minister Masuka said Cabinet had directed that the Grain Marketing Board’s strategic reserves be increased to 1,5 million tonnes.

As of Thursday, he said, the GMB had only 200 000 metric tonnes in its reserves.

Minister Masuka said this was attributable to the liberalisation of marketing arrangements for grain where GMB was no longer the monopoly purchaser.

“The GMB now purchases the surplus of Intwasa/Pfumvudza, self-financed farmers and producers. So, AFC, CBZ and the private sector also contract and buy grain from farmers.

“Of the 536 000 metric tonnes sold last year, GMB only managed to buy under 200 000 metric tonnes. They now have 39 percent of marketed crops,” said Minister Masuka.

Government was looking at raising the agriculture economy from US$8 billion in 2020 to US$13,75 billion in 2025 through the promotion of irrigation based farming.

Herald

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