THE GOVERNMENT has with immediate effect taken over all land and irrigation schemes countrywide previously owned by co-operatives and villagers saying they had been privatised by some individuals.
The deputy agriculture ministers David Murapira and Paddy Zhanda told irrigation scheme members and rural farmers that all land belonged to the State and would now be managed by Agritex officers.
The highly-contested issue saw chiefs and village heads becoming the main culprits of illegally distributing land to their friends and denying deserving citizens access.
Speaking on the sidelines of a tour that stretched from Marula to Bulilima in Matabeleland South on Tuesday, Murapira, responsible for irrigation, told farmers at Somunene Irrigation Scheme that all land and irrigation schemes now belonged to the government through Agritex and not individuals and co-operatives.
“Farmers must understand that this land belongs to the government and Agritex and people should till this land and access it equally without any problem,” Murapira said.
“As the government, we have taken over all the irrigation schemes in the country.
“Farmers must know that they must till the land according to dictates of Agritex and not to privatise it,” he said.
However, farmers’ unions said although they appreciated that land belonged to the State, they did not agree with the issue of the government giving Agritex total control of irrigation schemes as it is struggling to make ends meet.
Wonder Chabikwa from the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union said they were against the issue of the government taking over irrigation schemes because the duty of Agritex was to teach the farmer on how to utilise the land and not to run such schemes.
“We are not against the issue that the government owns the land, but we are concerned about the issue of the government taking over all irrigation schemes and giving them to Agritex. It is a known fact that Agritex is struggling and it will not manage to run these schemes,” Chabikwa said.
Zhanda, who is responsible for livestock, warned commercial farmers who are shortchanging villagers by buying their beasts for as little as $100.
“We would to like to urge farmers who are shortchanging villagers because every farmer has a right to charge the appropriate value of his beast using the gazetted range of prices.
“We know that there are people who are shortchanging others and we will not condone that,” Zhanda said.
Murapira and Zhanda pledged to cancel the water and power debt of Somunene Irrigation Scheme.