Mugabe’s land worthless-Civil Servants

Malvern Mkudu, Opinion

Civil servants have rejected the proposal by government to have their bonuses paid in kind as residential stands. It came as a shock to me considering that most Zimbabweans view urban land as the pinnacle of their success.

Whether this decision has been arrived at out of principle or mistrust of government is not yet clear but what is clear is that civil servants are not willing to enter into any land pacts with President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Land is a national resource and not the private property of President Mugabe and his inner circle. A few men cannot sit and in a few minutes determine the fate of land that is supposed to serve future generations. All citizens must be given a fair chance to own it.

Dangling land as a carrot of appeasement to disgruntled civil servants shows desperation by a government which has run out of ideas. The civil servants have done well by rejecting such a proposal which was sure to rob future generations of a chance to development.

While civil servants can be virtuous and see the bigger picture it is possible that they have taken this decision because they do not trust government. Civil servants have seen this government demolishing houses in the past. Senior officer in the President’s office had their houses demolished near the airport.

The houses were demolished despite a confirmation of the registration of Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative, a letter authorising them to build from the Local Government ministry signed by one S M Sibanda, one letter signed by provincial administrator Alfred Tome in 2013, a Government Gazette of 2010 and a Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe letter giving them the green light to construct houses on the land. The matter also sucked in permanent secretary of local government Mr George Mlilo.

Nothing was ever done to these government officials and today they occupy the same positions as if nothing ever happened. While the government may forget, ordinary people do not easily forget these things. People have learnt their lessons.

Thirdly the land has no real value. The value of land in urban areas is determined by many things. For starters one will check whether the land is serviced or not. This means there should be things such as roads, sewer and other amenities. Mugabe’s government has no resources to provide these amenities.

Urban land must also follow development of industry. Historically high density suburbs either sprouted near industries or followed a railway line. This was captured well by War Veterans Chairman, Christopher Mutsvangwa when he questioned why the ZANU PF government was parceling out land in the urban areas when industries are closing down.

He said “totally unbothered to create industries that create the value of the urban land they now crave. Why don’t G40 allocate themselves parcels of housing land in Mbire for Kasukuwere, Tsholotsho for Jonathan Moyo and (Patrick) Zhuwao in Zvimba?”

Civil servants know that without this real development urban land retains very little value. In fact it is as good as rural land. More over ruling party linked land barons have made land worthless by oversupplying it in the market. Some people have been known to buy residential stands for a paltry $30.

Lastly civil servants witnessed firsthand ZANU PF’s programme to give land to youths and women turning into a disaster. Three farms were availed by President Mugabe and UDCORP under the local government ministry was tasked with servicing the land. Before the ink on the offer letters was dry, fights over the land erupted. Youths complained that companies linked to Kasukuwere had been given land. President Mugabe himself accused Kasukuwere of giving the land to Prophet Walter Magaya.

Nothing ever happened to Kasukuwere or his alleged friends who were accused of having stolen the land. Mugabe later made a u-turn at Cephas Msipa’s burial and announced that it had been a mistake to give youth and women land. He said land is a finite resource and it must be kept for future generations. This is the same Mugabe who is now negotiating with civil servants to give them land as payment for their bonuses. How sustainable is that?

Civil servants, like all other Zimbabweans have realised how ZANU PF supporters and some war veterans are now being driven off farms they helped invade 20 years ago. Mugabe’s wife has evicted many families from a farm in Mazowe. These families had been resettled here after occupying the farm during the land invasions.

What is clear to all is that Mugabe’s government has no clear land policy.  It all depends on Mugabe’s mood and one can be a land owner or squatter at his behest. This makes investing in land a risky if not foolish business.

The refusal by civil servants to accept potentially lucrative urban land simply shows that trust in Mugabe’s government concerning land has waned.

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