Agricultural Land in Zimbabwe

First Published: May 30, 2018

Agricultural Land in Zimbabwe: Agriculture Law – What You Need to Know

By Prince Kanokanga


“Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for it’s the only thing in this world that lasts. It’s the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.” – Margaret Mitchell

Throughout the ages, and the world over, land has caused many armed conflicts, and displacement of people. It is no wonder why, land has and continues to be a hot topic in any jurisdiction. The land issue in Zimbabwe attracted a lot of international attention.

The land reform and resettlement program in Zimbabwe was one of the most controversial in recent years. After nearly two decades and for the first time the Zimbabwean government invited commercial farmers whose farms were seized during the controversial land reform program to apply for compensation.

In the Kanokanga & Partners Newsletter No. 5 Zim Law (Diaspora Edition) the learned author Mrs Kudzai Kaseke tackled the topic ‘Compensation for Zimbabwean Commercial Farmers’. She in her analysis dealt with a few of the compensation proposals raised, which include the establishment of a Land Compensation Fund whose functions include, providing resources for the payment of compensation to former farm owners whose farms were acquired by the State under the Land Reform Programme and to enhance productivity on allocated land, the selling of agricultural land to current settlers and the Floatation of Land Compensation Bonds, which would be issued and made redeemable over a long period to assist in the proper quantification of the compensation amount.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe and Agricultural Land

Section 72 of the Zimbabwe Constitution regulates the Rights to Agricultural Land.

What is Agricultural Land?

Section 72 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe defines ‘agricultural land’ as follows:

“agricultural land” means land used or suitable for agriculture, that is to say for horticulture, viticulture, forestry or aquaculture or for any purpose of husbandry, including—

  1. the keeping or breeding of livestock, game, poultry, animals or bees; or
  2. the grazing of livestock or game; but does not include Communal Land or land within the boundaries of an urban local authority or within a township established under a law relating to town and country planning or as defined in a law relating to land survey;

“land” includes anything permanently attached to or growing on land;

“piece of agricultural land” means a piece of agricultural land registered as a separate piece of land in a Deeds Registry.

The Principles Guiding Policy on Agricultural Land

Section 289 of the Zimbabwe Constitution provides as follows:

“289 Principles guiding policy on agricultural land

In order to redress the unjust and unfair pattern of land ownership that was brought about by colonialism, and to bring about land reform and the equitable access by all Zimbabweans to the country’s natural resources, policies regarding agricultural land must be guided by the following principles—

(a) land is a finite natural resource that forms part of Zimbabweans’ common heritage;

(b) subject to section 72, every Zimbabwean citizen has a right to acquire, hold, occupy, use, transfer, hypothecate, lease or dispose of agricultural land regardless of his or her race or color;

(c) the allocation and distribution of agricultural land must be fair and equitable, having regard to gender balance and diverse community interests;

(d) the land tenure system must promote increased productivity and investment by Zimbabweans in agricultural land;

(e) the use of agricultural land should promote food security, good health and nutrition and generate employment, while protecting and conserving the environment for future generations;

(f) no person may be deprived arbitrarily of their right to use and occupy agricultural land.”

Important Legislation regarding Land in Zimbabwe

It is of importance to briefly highlight some of the fundamental legal provisions which regulate land or have a bearing on the acquisition and or disposal of land in Zimbabwe which are the following:

  • Communal Land Act [Chapter 20:04]
  • Deeds Registries Act [Chapter 20:05]
  • Fencing Act [Chapter 20:06]
  • Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act [Chapter 20:28]
  • Land Acquisition Act [Chapter 20:10]
  • Land Survey Act [Chapter 20:12]
  • Land Surveyors Act [Chapter 27:06]
  • Pipeline Act [Chapter 13:08]
  • Regional, Town and Country Planning Act [Chapter 29:12]
  • Rural Land Act [Chapter 20:18]
  • Title Registration and Derelict Lands Act [Chapter 20:20]
  • Water Act [Chapter 20:24]

Who Owns Agricultural Land in Zimbabwe?

The question of who owns agricultural land is a pivotal one indeed, if land is the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it is the only thing that lasts. In Zimbabwe, agricultural land is governed and regulated by the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act [Chapter 20:10]. Basically and without going into much detail, in Zimbabwe, if agricultural land is not privately held under title, the land vests in the President. Therefore in Zimbabwe an owner or occupier of agricultural land privately owned can subject to limitations imposed by law, transfer, hypothecate, lease or dispose of his or her right in agricultural land.

Can You Purchase Agricultural Land in Zimbabwe?

It must be stated that the State may alienate for value any agricultural land vested in it, whether through the transfer of ownership to any other person or through the grant of a lease or other right of occupation or use. Any interested party(s) may make an application to the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Settlement who may at his or his discretion reject or grant such request.

Privately held agricultural land in Zimbabwe may be transferred, hypothecated, leased or disposed off. It is important to note that there is a statutory limitation that has been imposed by law prior to the transfer of agricultural land. Any Seller who wishes to transfer and or dispose of his rights and interests in his or her agricultural land must first give the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Settlement the ‘Right of First Refusal’.

In the case of Hativagone & Another v CAG Farms (Pvt) Ltd & Others SC 152/14 the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe stated that:

“The farm at the centre of this dispute falls under the category of rural land.  Such land is administered under the Land Acquisition Act.[5] Both parties understood that in order for them to enter into a valid agreement of sale of the farm, there was need for the appellants to first approach the relevant authority in order that it could exercise its statutory right of first refusal to purchase the land.  The law prescribes that a holder of land categorised as rural land cannot sell his or her land to any other person without having approached the State to exercise its statutory right of first refusal.  If the State is not interested in the land, the relevant Minister will issue a certificate of no present interest and only then may a party proceed to enter into an agreement of sale with any other party.”

From the above it is as clear as the nose is on the face that privately held agricultural land may be sold to any interested person(s). In order to ensure that the procedure is above board, it is essential that before one concludes a Sale Agreement, they be certain as to the type of land in question, whether there are any encumbrances against the agricultural land and that the Minister has issued the Seller of the agricultural land with a Certificate of No Present Interest. It is of equal importance to highlight that even the ‘cession of rights is tantamount to alienation or disposal of rights which would have been contrary to s 5 (2) (c), in the absence of permission or consent by the acquiring authority.’[1]

What is a 99 Year Lease Agreement?

A 99 year lease agreement is a legally binding agreement between the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Settlement on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe who is the Lessor and the A2 Model Beneficiary or Farmer who is the Lessee.

A 99 year old lease is issued to beneficiaries who would have successfully submitted application forms and have had the Districts Lands Officers inspect the farm and or interviewed the farmer, after which had the Agricultural Land Settlement Board having assessed and made a field visit to the farm and being satisfied submitted their recommendations to the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Settlement who would then enter into a binding lease agreement at an agreed rental.

It is important to note that a 99 year lease is issued to the land beneficiary as a form of long term leasehold of tenure which may be used as collateral for borrowing from financial institutions.

[1] Naval Phase Farming (Pvt) Ltd & 2 Ors v Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement & 3 Ors HH 768-15


The contents of this publication are for general information purposes only. They do not constitute our legal or professional advice. Readers are advised not to act on the basis of the information contained herein alone. Every situation depends on its own facts and circumstances. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage of whatsoever nature which may arise from reliance on any of the information published herein.

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