Levelling the Land Stakes

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[From Horizon, November 1992. pp. 7, 50.]

Government plans to freeze white-owned land in urban areas and offer disadvantaged young blacks the chance to own property. Equalising access to land is aimed at creating peace and stability, not scaring old settlers, says Joshua Nkomo.

The government is looking at ways of controlling the white ownership of land in urban areas with a view to making it available to young blacks who are finding it difficult to acquire property under ESAP.

Commenting at length on the issue of land in a recent television documentary on the topic, Vice President Joshua Nkomo said the government was planning to freeze all white and council owned land in urban areas and introduce a system of leasehold ownership.

"As you know, Harare is owned by white people. We want to change that," said Nkomo." We are working out a plan to use leasehold rather than title deeds. Government is working on a programme that will freeze the land they own in urban areas and the land councils own in urban areas in order to keep it for these young people," he said.

This would help to provide land for young black people who did not have the money to buy it because their parents had been forced into the reserves where they were not able to produce anything. "So when they died they left nothing," said Nkomo.

The new method of land ownership would enable young blacks to participate in ESAP because, he said, "they cannot take part in ESAP if they are not able to acquire land in the communal areas and in the urban areas ....

"Government has to give it to them on freehold which gives them the right to use the land as their own."

"Anyone who believes the government wants to grab land for the purposes of giving it to the black people because they are black people, is mistaken. What government is doing is to bring about permanent peace and stability in the urban areas and the communal lands."

The Vice President said the government's plans were not designed to bring down the white people, but to enable the best black people to be in the same position as whites for the sake of equity and national stability.

"They just have got to respond because its in their interest .... If people remain what they are you can be sure there will be chaos in this country and therefore it is not just a job for government. It is a job for everyone ...", he said.

Referring to the farmland being acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, he said that those who believe in the willing buyer willing seller philosophy should forget it because "we are not going to buy land, we are going to acquire land for the good of everybody and this is the reason why I am bringing these farmers and industrialists to be part of the changes we are bringing about."

"The white people (should) know and accept that they are part of this country and therefore they cannot have that which other people do not have," he said.

White farmers should understand this because land distribution was their only protection. "They are immigrants to this country," said Nkomo, "and if young blacks remain at the stage where they are today they will say, 'makabva kupi imi? Nyika ndeyedu', (where do you come from? The country's ours). But it must be 'nyika ndeyedu tese, varungu nevanhu vatema', (the country is ours, both whites and blacks).

"This is what government is saying. Too many don't understand that (but) they have to understand it and therefore the Land Acquisition Act and the changes in the acquisition of land in the urban areas," said Nkomo.

At the Lancaster House Conference, the liberation movement accepted the condition preventing the new government from forcibly acquiring land for 10 years because the talks were in danger of breaking down, said Nkomo. "But we did this because we say that this would give us time to train our young people so that we could build up the manpower that would use this land productively.

"What we have done fron 1980 was to get sufficient land for the people who were displaced during the war," said the veteran nationalist, "because it was necessary to show that we have the right to distribute land."

He said many people who did not understand the government's agenda believed it had failed to use the land properly and that the resettlement areas had been depleted.

But "this was deliberate. We knew what was going to happen because the people who were settled had not been trained."

Nkomo said it was the black people who were the producers on commercial farms, adding: "The farmers, they are not technical people, they have no knowledge of farming, most of them. They are assisted."

And so this is what government would do for the new farmers through Agritex. It was necessary to plan, said Nkomo, so Agritex would be expanded to help them.

"We, as Africans, have to be prepared to respond to government plans in order to sustain ourselves better than we have done since occupation and the land is now ready for that.

"Therefore, it is sensible for us and the people who have that land to understand that government wants equity, government wants to increase production to all the people.

"And so we are moving to an area where there will be no white man protecting himself and the black man wanting to grab something from him. No! We want to see this movement being brought about deliberately by government and the commercial and industrial people to avoid what I have called another revolution," said Nkomo.

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