An important recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry into Land Tenure Systems in Zimbabwe (1994) that I chaired was that Zimbabwe should maintain a multi-form tenure regime. The commission recommended that each tenure instrument be made more secure by explicitly identifying the land rights and ensuring greater continuity of those rights by the holder. Moreover, legal and institutional provisions and capacities can enforce such rights for all land, including land held under customary tenure. In this article I will make recommendations on how to strengthen the multi-form tenure system and discuss how this can be applied to improving land investment and values again in Zimbabwe. Those interested in exploring the principles, theory and practice in securing land rights for sustainable development should read my other article.
Under what conditions is agricultural land bankable?
Banks and financing institutions look at two main things in financing a farming business: viability/profitability and collateral security. Viability or profitability is the first necessary condition for any financing. Farmers with a track record at a bank can continue to get financing without much separate or additional collateral security. If a farmer is making money and his/her business dealings are open to the bank, the bank will increase their trust of the farmer and their business over time. Just having a title does not necessarily lead to financing, particularly for new and inexperienced farmers with no track record of farming profitably. Banking is ultimately about trust.This point is crucial to remember in the debate on tenure in Zimbabwe (and Africa generally), as this debate has become quite ideological. In most of industrializing Asia, agricultural growth was maintained at a high level based on small farms with no collateral security because the business environment and economic policies were favourable.
Banks in Zimbabwe are also looking forward to the resolution of disputed land, as discussed in my last article. Government urgently needs to review and update the land administration systems, so that the government and local government systems, the judiciary and the finance sector all have access to one registry and administrative system that is sufficiently accurate, reliable and decentralized to provincial and districts centres, where transactions can be completed and disputes resolved amicably. Tenure security is ultimately about capacity to protect and enforce land rights.
The needs and challenges in reforming tenure
Following the Fast Track land reform program, Government is now seeking to improve tenure security for the farmers and allow farmers to use their land holdings as collateral security to raise finance for development and farming operations. The current 99-Year Lease is still inadequate for banking purposes. On the other hand, the Government is sceptical about giving freehold title for the fear that white farmers buying land again may reverse the gains of land reform. So the question is “How does policy arrive at a secure tenure that is bankable whilst at the same time maintaining the gains of land reform?” Bankability and sustainable development issues also apply to all other land tenure instruments in Zimbabwe besides the 99-Year Lease.
A quick look at the current tenure instruments
The following are the current tenure instruments in Zimbabwe:
The Constitution and the future consolidated land law(s) will have to be clearer for every category of land as to what rights the land occupier will have. Land tenure security can generally be defined as the certainty of continuous use.To secure tenure, land rights for each category of land occupier have to be clear and enforceable. Each tenure regime should enjoy the same 4 categories of rights. What differ are specifics of each of the 4 categories of rights and how that is administered and enforced.
The BASKET OF LAND RIGHTS includes:
How can all these tenure instruments be made more secure?
Here are my recommendations in strengthening further the current instruments:
Traditional usufruct on State Land for Communal Areas:
Communal Lands should cease to be State Land and the State should recognise in the constitution and law, the validity of customary rights as follows:
Freehold Title for some Large Scale Commercial and Small Scale Commercial farms:
This tenure tool should be maintained. No sales to foreigners should be allowed. Foreigners should be allowed short to medium term rental leases on land with title deeds.
Short-term Leases on Small Scale Commercial farms:
Any leases older than 10 years should be converted to a Deed of Grant without further delay. The Deed should be granted in the name of both spouses. Where the original leaseholders are deceased, then the Deed should be granted in consultation with all surviving children so that either the grant goes to the heir-apparent child and his or her spouse. Alternatively, the surviving family establishes a Family Trust or Company with appointed Trustees or Directors making decisions. This group of farms all started in the colonial period when black ‘master farmers’ where allocated small-scale farms on a short term lease that they could convert to a title (deed of grant). Although all of them had the right to convert to title, most did not.
99-year leases for some of the A2 resettlement:
The 99-Year Lease should be strengthened as follows:
Offer letters for A2 resettlement:
Holders of these should be given the following options:
Permits for Model A Old Resettlement and A1:
Should be revised as follows:
If we look at the process of commercialising land, then all resettlement land should be first and communal land last.
Need for residential land for rural citizens as part of a “Zimbabwean dream”
All Zimbabweans deserve to live in a country where there is abundant and affordable food, and that each family has a home. My recommendation is that the Government shifts its policy from emphasising expensive urban housing to encouraging smaller rural settlements. Every Zimbabwe boy and girl at attaining the age of majority should qualify for a land grant from the local community in areas designated as “rural residential areas”. The size can vary from 0.1 to 0.4 of a hectare or so. She or he can apply to any local land board with automatic title. This is also a way of dealing with the gender balance in land, affording young Zimbabweans to own their own piece of land for housing before they get married. Botswana has applied this policy successfully.
This paper is part of the Zimbabwe Land Series
 Rukuni M. 1999. Land tenure, governance, and prospects for sustainable development in Africa. Policy Brief #6. Natural Resources policy Consultative Group for Africa. Washington DC. Natural Resources Institute.