Veteran banker pushes for 99-year land leases

Garikai Mafirakureva

Business Reporter

Zimbabwe has for years been in the lurch on the form of land tenure to use.

Political parties have argued for one form of land tenure or another. The common land tenures are the title to the land (title deeds), land leases and in particular proposed 99-year leases for land obtained under the land reform programme.

Thousands of people resettled by Government since 1980 have no title to the land as all they hold are offer letters from Government. Nelson Chamisa, the CCC president has been advocating for title deeds for people living in the communal lands.

Communal lands under the current arrangement belong to the State.

Speaking at in an exclusive interview with The Mirror, former senior Reserve Bank official, Goodman Tamuona Musariri who was head of treasury operations supports 99-year leases as a good as title deeds provided it is supported by the right security features.

He actually says that 99-year-land leases are better than title and he was going to push for this with authorities including writing papers to support his idea.

Musariri said a 99-year-lease with proper bankable security features especially with prescribed assets; collateral, discountable of the tenor against Present Value and Face Value of land leases by Government is the best form of land tenure.

The 99-year land usufruct or 99-year leases will be given characteristics of paper money which are portable, recognizable, acceptable, divisible, durable, uniform and scarce.

He said that he will take this proposal to the current Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mthuli Ncube, Zanu PF, Government and the Bankers and Dealers Associations of Zimbabwe.

“A paper should be written about the securitization and bankability of the 99-year leases that will lead to deepening of Financial Markets, diversification of financial marketable securities and products against land as the underlying asset and shall lead to savings through the sacrifice of consumption and investment into Agriculture, Mining and Real Estate which must be talking to each other right now for far greater Passive Incomes than ever before,” said Musariri.

Musariri worked for CBZ, Royal Bank and Legend Asset Management before joining RBZ. At the RBZ, Musariri worked as a money market dealer, settlements manager, sinking funds and donor funds administrator and manager (ledgers) to mention a few assignments.

Minister of State in charge of Monitoring and the Implementation of Special Agricultural programmes, Davis Marapira could not comment on the matter and referred questions to, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Anxious Masuka.

“The best man to comment on that issue is the Agriculture Minister. He is well placed to talk about what is better between title deeds and 99-year leases,” said Marapira.

Masuka could not be reached for comment as his mobile went unanswered.

However, Finance Minister Tendai Biti rubbished the argument saying no one will build a permanent structure on a leased piece of land. He went on to say the only way to give Zimbabwean a sense of ownership is to give them title deeds.

“Who would want to be a tenant the whole of his life? Obviously you can’t build a permanent structure on a leased piece of land. So it’s brainless to support 99-year leases because title deeds have security,” said Biti.

Economist Eddie Cross supported Musariri’s line of argument and said title deeds are for urban land while 99-year leases are for rural areas. “Yes, I support his argument because title deeds are only for urban land and 99-year leases are for agricultural land. Even in Britain agricultural land is not owned but it’s leased. So I can see where Musariri is coming from,” said Cross.   

Historically the argument for the communal land system has been topical as land tenure insecurity is extremely high in Zimbabwe, and agricultural production has suffered. According to United States Agency for International Development Commercial farmers, as well as farmers who have been resettled on taken land, remain uncertain about the strength of their property rights. Although the formal legal system continues to function in Zimbabwe, its legitimacy has been seriously undermined through political interference. The government operates under a series of laws, orders, and emergency presidential decrees of often dubious legal authority.

The argument for title deeds have been triggered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa after he assured Epworth residents that his Government will give them biometric title deeds to regularise their homes.

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