The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Copac Draft Riles Chiefsl . . . Seek to Meet President, Clause On Land Raises Storm, 'No to Throwback to Colonial Era'

TRADITIONAL leaders will this week seek audience with President Mugabe over clauses in the Copac draft Constitution which they feel undermined their authority. The clauses are on land, property rights and the Judicial Service Commission.

This comes as the Constitution Select Committee is expected to steer a motion in Parliament tomorrow seeking permission to present the draft.

Parliamentarians are expected to adopt the draft on Wednesday.

But, traditional leaders yesterday said they had been excluded from the administration of most land except communal land, a move they argued had left them powerless.

Clause 15.3 (2) of the Copac draft states that: "Except as provided for in Act of Parliament, traditional leaders shall have no authority, control or jurisdiction over land except communal land or over persons outside communal land unless the cause of the action arose within the area of the traditional leader's jurisdiction

The traditional leaders said this was a "new" clause crafted by the Copac management committee as it diverted from what people said during the outreach programme.

Chief Nembire from Mashonaland Central said the exclusion of traditional leaders from controlling land was objectionable.

"We have resolved as chiefs to approach the President over the issue this week," he said.

"The provision is a throwback to the colonial era where the administration of land was regulated in accordance with the white settlers' policy of racial segregation as reflected in the Land Apportionment Act.

"That Act excluded black people and their leadership structures from having anything to do with the most productive land in the country and limited their influence to the so-called Tribal Trust Lands,which were set aside for Africans."

Chief Nembire said before the July 18 draft, traditional leaders had in April last year rejected an initial clause which stated that: "Except as provided in an Act of Parliament, traditional leaders have authority, jurisdiction and control over the communal land or other areas for which they have been appointed and over persons within those communal lands or areas".

Said Chief Nembire: "We asked the management committee to attend to that issue, but they retreated in Nyanga and changed the wording for us to think that they had changed it.

"After the Nyanga retreat, we saw that issues that had been agreed on were reopened. Some provisions were either deleted, altered or completely changed.

"That is where we even started to see the issue of running mates that were never a parked issue before."

Chief Nyamukoho from Mudzi said the clause on land would cause chaos .

"It takes the land back to the colonial period contrary to the values of the liberation struggle.

"On the land section in the National Statistical Report, Zimbabweans during the outreach programme said traditional leaders should allocate land, preside over land and are custodians of land. They never said communal land. But the new clause seeks to prohibit traditional leaders from having authority or control over land, except communal land contrary to the views of the people."

Chief Siansali of Binga said the authority of traditional leaders had been undermined on the Judicial Service Commission.

He said the initial Copac draft provided for the inclusion of one person nominated by the National Council of Chiefs in the JSC.

"After the (Nyanga) retreat we noticed that the provision was expunged from the current draft," he said.

"This is objectionable because the inclusion of our nominee on the JSC was neither a contested issue nor a parked issue. It should not have been revisited.

"The inclusion of a chief in the JSC was premised on the fact that customary law courts are recognised by the same draft Constitution and their presiding officers are recognised as part of the judiciary."

Chief Siansali said it was baffling why traditional leaders had been omitted from the JSC.

"All other members of the judiciary are represented on the JSC," he said.

"The main function of the JSC is to advise Government on a matter relating to the judiciary or the administration of justice. As judicial officers, we are capable of providing invaluable input."

Chief Nyamukoho said: "The removal of traditional leaders from the JSC was not commensurate with the principle that the traditional court system should be respected, which is agreed issue 6 of the Agreed Issues on page 57 of the list of proposed Constitutional issues document of November 14, 2011."

President of the Chiefs Council Chief Fortune Charumbira said the Copac management committee took advantage of the chiefs' absence to tamper with the initial agreement.

"The Select Committee had done well but everything was altered and deleted by the management committee where we are not represented he said.

"I am not happy with the issue and there were members of the Select Committee who are in agreement with us, but said their hands were tied and could not make changes."

If the draft is adopted by Parliament, public awareness campaigns would begin to educate the generality of Zimbabweans on the contents of the draft. All political parties have agreed to campaign for a "Yes" vote in the referendum.

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