Land re­set­tle­ment still un­re­solved 36yrs later

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion/analysis -

in Zim­babwe as is the case in all so — called Third World coun­tries, a larger num­ber of peo­ple still live in the ru­ral ar­eas than in ur­ban cen­tres.

That should mean that the land re­set­tle­ment ex­er­cise af­fects those in the ru­ral ar­eas more than the ur­ban area res­i­dents.

Ru­ral ar­eas com­prise com­mu­nal lands (for­merly called “Na­tive Re­serves,” later “Tribal Trust Lands” (TTLs), com­mer­cial farm­ing (in­clud­ing na­tive pur­chase ar­eas) and na­tional land and game re­serves.

The re­set­tle­ment pro­gramme has af­fected the com­mer­cial farm­ing area al­most ex­clu­sively for ob­vi­ous his­tor­i­cal rea­sons as that is land that was force­fully grabbed from the black peo­ple by the Euro­pean colo­nial set­tlers, blacks be­ing dumped on what are now known as com­mu­nal lands.

It is called com­mu­nal land be­cause it is owned com­mu­nally as op­posed to com­mer­cial farms and na­tive pur­chase ar­eas for which there is pri­vate own­er­ship le­galised by title deeds.

The re­set­tle­ment pro­gramme is di­rected from the rel­e­vant min­istry in Harare right from the first stage of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the land to the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the ben­e­fi­ciary.

In some cases, lo­cal lead­er­ship is in­volved. In such cases the re­set­tled land be­comes a part of a neigh­bour­ing com­mu­nal land, and by that mea­sure it is in­te­grated into the ap­pro­pri­ate chief­dom.

There is cer­tainly noth­ing wrong about that, pro­vided his­tor­i­cally the newly re­set­tled land was un­der the same chief­tain­ship. It is very im­por­tant, there­fore, for the Gov­ern­ment to make sure that it does not make the mis­take of giv­ing land that was un­der, say Chief Mal­aba, Chief Chi­weshe or Chief Nekatambe be­fore it was grabbed by Ce­cil John Rhodes’ ad­min­is­tra­tion or its suc­ces­sors and hand it over to a dif­fer­ent neigh­bour­ing chief fol­low­ing its re­set­tle­ment.

To avoid such an er­ror, it is vi­tal to in­volve ap­pro­pri­ate lo­cal chiefs, head­men and vil­lage heads in the re­set­tle­ment pro­gramme. If not, the pos­si­bil­ity of re­set­ting peo­ple in re­gions, or lo­cal­i­ties that are ei­ther cul­tur­ally or eco­log­i­cally in­ap­pro­pri­ate is very high.

There is also the pos­si­bil­ity of bring­ing peo­ple from a far­away lo­cal­ity and re­set­tling them on a for­mer com­mer­cial farm which is next to an over pop­u­lated com­mu­nal land.

The lo­cal peo­ple feel hard done to see land that they thought would ben­e­fit them be­ing utilised for peo­ple from other chief­doms or re­gions.

That may cause ten­sion most un­nec­es­sar­ily, and should be avoided at all cost by di­rectly and ac­tively in­volv­ing lo­cal tra­di­tional lead­ers of the lands near where re­set­tle­ment is planned.

The core duty of every tra­di­tional leader, from vil­lage heads, to chiefs is to ad­min­is­ter first and fore­most, the land un­der them.

That means re­set­tling peo­ple, giv­ing them arable land for schools, clin­ics, hospi­tals, dip­ping tanks, sports grounds, churches as well as land for com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial pur­poses.

That should be done in con­sul­ta­tion with the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tors and the dis­trict coun­cils, of course. We should al­ways bear in mind that every Zim­bab­wean lo­cal­ity would like to en­joy the prac­ti­cal benefits of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence.

Those benefits are in the form of power and space. Power is car­ried and ex­er­cised by the lo­cal tra­di­tional, coun­cil and administrative author­i­ties.

Space refers to the land and its nu­mer­ous re­sources, the air above that land, and the wa­ter in, on and ad­ja­cent to that land.

We can add a third fac­tor, op­por­tu­ni­ties. How­ever, op­por­tu­ni­ties are, in ef­fect, an ex­ten­sion of both power and space in that they are cre­ated by pol­icy —mak­ers and in­volve the ex­ploita­tion or util­i­sa­tion of land or air or wa­ter — based re­sources.

Be that as it may, every com­mu­nity wishes to be in­volved in the util­i­sa­tion of its re­sources, and to ben­e­fit from and by what­ever op­por­tu­ni­ties that may be cre­ated by pol­icy — gen­er­a­tors or by nat­u­ral fac­tors such as the weather.

Tra­di­tional lead­ers rep­re­sent every mem­ber of their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties ir­re­spec­tive of their po­lit­i­cal or cul­tural (re­li­gious) af­fil­i­a­tion, that is to say, of ei­ther the lead­ers them­selves or of the com­mu­nity mem­bers as in­di­vid­u­als.

That is an ad­van­tage in their role as ar­bi­tra­tors or as keep­ers of tra­di­tional values, nat­u­ral re­sources and the se­cu­rity of their re­spec­tive territories.

All this in­di­cates that tra­di­tional lead­ers do have an in­alien­able part to play in the re­set­tle­ment of the peo­ple of Zim­babwe not only be­cause they own the land in trust for their com­mu­ni­ties but also be­cause they are the de jure ad­min­is­tra­tors (in cul­tural and tra­di­tional terms) of their territories.

It is not with­out le­gal and le­git­i­mate jus­ti­fi­ca­tion that many large tracts of land are called by the names of chiefs: kaBango, kwaChi­weshe, kwaMarange, kwaZimunya, kaMan­guba, koKhu­malo, kaMad­lam­budzi, kaMasendu, koMz­imuni, kwaMakoni, kwaMu­tasa and so on and so forth.

To leave out tra­di­tional lead­ers from the land re­set­tle­ment process is to ex­clude sources of vi­tal in­for­ma­tion about those who are to be re­set­tled, and about the land to be re­set­tled.

It also ren­ders tra­di­tional lead­ers ir­rel­e­vant to the lives of the peo­ple in their ar­eas. If it is not un­con­sti­tu­tional at worst, it is un­cus­tom­ary at least and would be against the cul­tural norms and prac­tices of land ten­ure and us­age in Zim­babwe.

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a re­tired, Bu­l­awayo - based jour­nal­ist. He can be con­tacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sg­

Re­set­tled farm­ers at work in a green­house

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