31 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Top Land Deal in the Pipeline

FARMERS resettled under the fast-track land reform programme will get security of tenure if the draft Constitution recently endorsed by the three political parties in the inclusive Government is approved.

The draft compels the State to give security of tenure to anyone occupying State land and provide people resettled on agricultural land the right to transfer, lease or dispose of their rights to that land.

The provision is part of issues that would be dealt with by the envisaged Zimbabwe Land Commission to be set up in the new charter.

The draft Constitution says the commission will conduct periodic land audits and deal with multiple farm ownership.

The commission would also ensure accountability and fairness in the administration of agricultural land.

On multiple farm ownership, the draft Constitution says the commission would enforce any law restricting the amount of agricultural land that may be held by any person or household.

It would craft policies on land use and maximum land size, simplify acquisition and transfer of land rights and systems of land tenure.

The draft Constitution would be presented to Parliament next week before being taken to a referendum expected in March, with the three political parties in the inclusive Government - Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC - having already called for their supporters to vote for the proposed charter.

The commission and its provisions are contained in Chapter 16 of the draft that also sets out principles guiding policies on agricultural land.

According to Section 297 (1) of the charter, the ZLC would "ensure accountability, fairness and transparency in the administration of agricultural land vested in the State".

The commission would also make recommendations to Government regarding the acquisition of private land for public purposes, equitable access and holding and occupation of agricultural land, in particular the elimination of all forms of unfair discrimination.

The draft Constitution also states that: "The State and all institutions and agencies of Government at every level, through legislative and other measures, must assist the ZLC carrying out its functions and must protect its independence, impartiality, integrity and effectiveness.

"The Government must make adequate and suitable provision, through legislation and other appropriate means, to ensure that: (a) the Zimbabwe Land Commission is able to exercise its functions efficiently and independently; (b) persons employed by the Zimbabwe Land Commission carry out their duties conscientiously, fairly and impartially."

The commission would comprise a chairperson, deputy chairperson and a minimum of two and maximum of seven other members appointed by the President.

The members would be appointed in consideration of gender equality and be reflective of the diversity of Zimbabwe's population, in particular regional interests.

According to the draft Constitution, any land designated as agricultural land in the current Constitution would continue to be vested in the State.

"Subject to this Constitution, any person who, immediately before the effective date, was using or occupying, or was entitled to use or occupy, any agricultural land by virtue of a lease or other agreement with the State continues to be entitled to use or occupy that land on or after the effective date, in accordance with that lease or other agreement," reads the draft.

Meanwhile, National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Professor Lovemore Madhuku has said he would campaign for a "no vote" for the draft Constitution during the forthcoming referendum.

He said relations between the NCA and the MDC formations had irretrievably broken down and would not support the political parties' stance on endorsing the draft.

There was a strong bond between the MDC-T and the NCA from the creation of the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai-led party in 1999, but fissures emerged following the formation of the inclusive Government.

Admitting the rift between the NCA and the MDC formations in an interview yesterday, Prof Madhuku said the era of their partnership had ended.

He said the NCA would single-handedly campaign for the "no vote".

"We are going to face them on the ground," he said. "We are definitely campaigning for the 'no vote'. Our 'no vote' is not based on partnership with anybody but on valid points. We have all the major political parties on one side and the NCA on the other side."

Prof Madhuku admitted that the MDC-T used to share structures with the NCA, but indicated such an arrangement had since ceased to exist.

He said national elections should be held under the current Constitution.

"We can go for elections under the current arrangement and talk of a new Constitution afterwards," he said.

Prof Madhuku, who is adamant that the Copac draft is not people driven, admitted that the NCA's coffers were dry and bankrolling the "no vote" campaign would be an uphill task.

"Our campaigns this time will be a real people's movement. We do not have money. We will not print any T-shirts, but we will make our message known. Money does not buy people's hearts," he said.

The NCA used to receive money from Western donors, but the donors pulled out after realising that the organisation had no power to change the status quo.

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