VICTORIA FALLS – The government has resolved to withdraw offer letters from farmers in conservancies and replace them with short-term lease agreements to allow for rotational ownership, the Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora said on Monday.
Mombeshora said there were land ownership challenges unique to conservancies which led to a rethink of the current model of infinite ownership of land allocated under the resettlement programme.
“In Dete (Matabeleland North) area, there are buffer zones, breading areas for the presidential elephant herd where government had redistributed the land to allow blacks to do hunting safaris. But there have been challenges in land ownership since we believe there was no clear policy on ownership when it came to hunting concessions,” Mombeshora said.
“So we have been giving and reversing offer letters to these farmers and it is high time we got to the bottom of this by replacing offer letters with lease agreements.
“With the new lease agreements — which can be five to 10 years — there is a timeframe and give others an opportunity to benefit from the activity. We don’t want a situation where one farmer is given a concession and thinks that it is his forever. He must be given a timeframe and if that expires, he gives others a chance,” he said.
He said his ministry was working with officials from the Environment ministry before finalising the leases.
Meanwhile, the minister said farmers illegally settled in conservancies would be removed.
He singled out Dete conservancy and Save Valley as the two places where farmers had illegally settled themselves, disturbing the environment and disrupting operations.