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State to deal with illegal land occupiers
The Herald (Zimbabwe)
September 20, 2006

GOVERNMENT has introduced a new law to deal with illegal farm invaders and farmers refusing to make way for those that have been given offer letters.

The Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Bill —which seeks to make it an offence to occupy or continue occupying gazetted land without lawful authority — yesterday sailed through the House of Assembly without amendments.

It now awaits transmission to the Senate for consideration.

The Bill validates all offer letters issued by the Ministry of National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement and provides for compensation for improvements made on acquired farms in line with the Land Acquisition Act.

In his seconding reading speech, the Minister of State for National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, Cde Didymus Mutasa, told the House of Assembly that the Bill was intended to deal with the continued occupation of gazetted land without lawful authority.

"The Bill seeks to make it punishable by law to hold, use or occupy a piece of land that was gazetted for resettlement purposes without lawful authority in the form of an offer letter," he said.

The ministry, Cde Mutasa said, was having problems of evicting white former commercial farmers who continued to utilise the land after the prescribed 90 days' notice.

This had made it difficult for new farmers issued with offer letters to move onto the acquired farms and engage in operations.

"In order to deter the continued illegal occupation of land after the expiry of the prescribed 90 days' notice to vacate, offenders will be given a sentence not exceeding seven days and would be evicted from the farm.

"The Bill also addresses the issue of unlawful fresh farm occupations," Cde Mutasa said.

The proposed law also seeks to repeal the Rural Land Occupiers (Protection from Eviction) Act that allowed and protected everyone who was occupying land without an offer letter.

"It protected our people from harassment and possible evictions by former white farmers, but the situation has since been regularised through the issuance of offer letters to all those on State land.

"No one will now claim protection under this law."

A total of 231 251 families under model A1 (communal and small-scale) and A2 (large-scale) have been resettled on 10 662 162 hectares. Turning to the issue of 99-year leases, Cde Mutasa said the Agricultural Land Resettlement Board had inspected 96 A2 farms and those who qualified would be issued with the leases soon.

The ministry would start issuing lease application forms to farmers who had a minimum of three years' production.

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