1 February 2013

Zimbabwe: New Provisions Dilute Land Commission's Effectiveness

THE proposed constitutional provision for a Land Commission to fall under the Lands ministry would hinder its independence, raising doubts over its effectiveness.

The changes were introduced in the final draft constitution agreed to by the unity government principals two weeks ago. Critics say the Land Commission should have remained independent as was provided for in the July 2012 draft constitution.

The July draft stipulated that the commission should be independent, but new provisions were added in the latest draft which state: "The Zimbabwe Land Commission, with the approval of the minister responsible for land, may make regulations for any of the purposes set out in the subsection.

"The Zimbabwe Land Commission must exercise its functions in accordance with any general written policy directives which the minister responsible for land may give it."

The commission's main functions include ensuring accountability, fairness and transparency in the administration of agricultural land that is vested in the state; conducting periodical audits of agricultural land; and making recommendations to government regarding the acquisition of private land for public purposes.

It will also investigate complaints and disputes regarding the supervision, administration and allocation of agricultural land and ensure fair compensation payable under any law for agricultural land and improvements that have been compulsorily acquired.

Blessing Vava of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) said: "The fact that it's under a ministry removes its independence. The minister responsible will be the one calling the shots."

However, Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga on Tuesday said the Land Commission was changed from being independent to being an executive commission because the land issue was not a universal matter.

Matinenga said: "The July provision had an independent commission, but the draft now has an executive commission, the reason being that when it comes to issues like human rights they are general and universally accepted, they do not change. However, land is a specific matter; something that can change with policies.

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