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Presentations to the Parliament portfolio committee on land and agriculture on the situation of housing and tenure for farm workers in newly resettled areas

Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe

14-16 October 2005

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Honorable members of parliament, director of FCTZ and all invited guests, let me start by saying how much GAPWUZ welcomes this workshop on housing and tenure security for farm workers in newly resettled areas. It is a great opportunity to spend your time discussing issues affecting one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. For GAPWUZ it is also an opportunity to present the plight of farm workers to the legislators so that their concerns can be taken on board during discussion and debates in parliament.

The agriculture industry

Zimbabwe is an agro based economy to the extent that once this pivotal sector is hit by an upheaval, the whole economy slows down in growth, employment and perfomance.Agriculture provides employment, raw materials for the industry and exports include tobacco, maize, sugar, and horticulture products. The contribution of a successful agriculture industry into a huge and highly segmented world market will help the country to achieve some of its national objectives of foreign currency generation, employment creation and supply of raw materials to industry. The agriculture industry is considered strategic in terms of high employment opportunities since most production systems are labour intensive.

The land reform programme

The government introduced the land reform programme (LRP) as a noble idea to increase and promote black economic empowerment through increasing their chances to get the resource land. To support this, the government echoed in most statements that, "The land to the people, the land is the economy and so forth." Whilst it is true that agriculture is the backbone of the Zimbabwe economy, GAPWUZ believes that the land redistribution policy is the most important element of land reform as it is part of the government strategy of poverty alleviation where by communities are given access to land for sustainable development and or residential purposes. The LRP should seek to assist the rural poor, including women, emergent farmers and farm workers.

Consideration should have be made for the farm workers as a priority since they have lived for their whole lives on farms and they have experience and knowledge of what goes on a farm. A little training will make them successful farmers. Instead we see land acquisition by the rich who have now been commonly referred to as cell phone farmers. The simple rationale is that they can not with stand the harsh environment of the farm, Farming in addition to resources also requires resilience and determination on the part of the farmer and the farm workers can be the best candidate to meet these conditions.

The farm workers and access to land

Historically, most farm workers migrated to white farms from Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, particularly up to the 1970s. Many of the present day farm workers are descendents of these migrants workers, with a small number of them actually born outside Zimbabwe. This history coupled with administrative difficulties in receiving identification documents has meant that farm workers are viewed as "foreigners" by most Zimbabweans, even though legally they have a claim to citizenship. Consequently, there is an assumption that farm workers are unable to acquire land in Zimbabwe's LRP.

Farm workers benefited from the initial land resettlement scheme in the early 1980s, but were discriminated against by a revised criteria for settlement in the late 1980s.Although There are many farm workers who have no access to land, it is important to emphasize that every citizen of Zimbabwe has the right to a "musha" or home.

Farm workers and land rights

Farm workers have been generally lost their jobs through the LRP without getting land for themselves, leaving most of them as squatters on their previous sites of employment all through out the countryside. Farm workers have been discriminated against by those distributing the newly occupied farms based on the grounds that they are "foreigners".

The farm workers are among the landless people, but were never recognized as the beneficiaries of the fast track land resettlement programme. The LRP had a negative impact among farm workers. They lost their jobs as livelihood depended on working in the farms. The resettlement exercise left out the farm workers who were never consulted over the national land policy. Farm workers remained in the domains of the marginalized group.

There is a powerful craving for land among farm workers, but not always for economic reasons as it is required for security or for residential purposes. The LRP should aim at poverty reduction, security of tenure, sustainable use of land and provision of security and shelter for the poor people. Relations between new farmers and farm workers have become very strained as a result of ownership of the compound and deteriorating working conditions. Some new farmers have sought High Court Orders to evict farm workers from farm villages. Ex-farm workers have been forcibly evicted from compounds by the war vets and police for the following reasons

    You don't qualify to stay at the farm because the farm now belongs to the government and the compound is for the new farmer.

    Refusing to work for the new farmer because they are under paying them and say they cannot afford the stipulated wages since they are starting.

    The houses are to be turned into a clinic.

    The houses should be allocated to the teachers.

    This means farm workers belong to the road side.

There is no legislation that protects these workers who currently live on acquired land now owned by new farmers with no tenure rights. Legislation should cover security of tenure in order to provide and enable farm workers to acquire land through assisted purchases of the land they currently occupy or of alternative land. Farm workers are and have been one of the biggest contributors of National Social Security Agency (NSSA) should also benefit from their contributions through the NSSA housing schemes.

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