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End of private property tenure looms
Mukaro, The Zimbabwe Independent
August 12, 2005
constitutional amendment to effectively nationalise all land it acquires
could mark the end of private property ownership and dash hopes of any
economic recovery in the near future.
Analysts say government's
proposed constitutional amendment to the Land Act to ensure all land gazetted
for acquisition since 2000 is not contested in the courts of law will
undermine property rights and reduce the market value of land.
The Human Rights NGO
Forum warns that nationalising land will erode the fundamental right to
property and hamper economic revival plans.
Making its submission
on the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill, which will effectively
nationalise land, the human rights umbrella body said the move was "ill-advised
"Not only landowners
will be affected: anyone with an interest or right in land will lose their
right or interest if the land is acquired under the new section, and they
will not receive compensation except for improvements," the group
therefore lose their security and will be unable to recover anything from
the state to mitigate their loss."
The NGO Forum said
although their primary concern was human rights, the proposed law would
have "disastrous economic effects".
"Owners and occupiers
of land, particularly rural farmland, will lose all security of tenure.
They will become mere tenants-at-will of the state," it said.
commercial agriculture will be impossible because financial institutions
will not underwrite agricultural activities for fear that someone will
publish a notice in a Government Gazette and render their security
The forum said prospects
of economic recovery would be shattered by the legislation.
"Any hopes of
economic recovery through agricultural develop-ment will wither as soon
as the new law comes into force," it said. "Industrial development,
too, may be retarded because, as indicated above, the section will apply
to land that is capable of being used for agriculture even if it is being
used for something else."
The civic group said
the impact of the Bill on human rights was chilling.
"The impact of
the proposed law on human rights is equally obvious. It will deprive Zimbabweans
of their right to property and to protection of the law, although these
rights are guaranteed by our constitution and by international instruments
to which Zimbabwe is a party," it said.
"The Bill is
appalling in its wide reach and arbitrary nature. There is no applicable
definition of ‘agricultural land', so almost all land in Zimbabwe will
be subject to expropriation under the new law."
The forum said only
land that was not possible to farm would fall outside the ambit of the
law. "Hence even residential stands in urban areas will be subject
to compulsory acquisition under the law, provided the stands are large
enough to produce a few flowers and vegetables," it said.
land — whatever that is — may be acquired for any purpose whatever. The
mere fact that a landowner has fallen from political favour will be sufficient
reason to expropriate his land."
Analysts said the
amendment would completely derail Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono's
call to make agriculture a bankable business. In May Gono advocated a
"command" form of agriculture so as to revive the country's
food security and self-sufficiency.
The analysts said
Gono's call had provided a glimmer of hope to the collapsing agricultural
sector and offered a direct shift from government's populist policies
that have reduced the one-time breadbasket of southern Africa to a net
importer of food while vast stretches of former productive land lie idle.
"Since the March
election there has been a lot of excitement and expectations, which has
been instilled by a new government policy of production and the stated
implementation of an ambitious recovery programme but the amendment will
take us backwards," one analyst said.
He said while there
has been a lot of encouraging words said and offers of huge amounts of
short-term, low interest concessionary finance by the RBZ, there is still
instability on the ground, with farmers facing daily evictions.
warned that the proposed constitutional amendment would result in land
being owned along party lines rather than the capacity to produce.
Justice for Agriculture
chairman John Worswick told a parliamentary hearing last week that the
amendment would nationalise all farmland, making it lose its market value.
"If the amendment
passes, land in Zimbabwe will be owned on the basis of patronage and not
one's productiveness or ingenuity," Worswick said. "While China
has accepted the need for individual property rights, Zimbabwe is moving
completely in the opposite direction," he said.
Worswick said land
the world over was not owned by the state but by individuals and companies
with leases and title deeds, which gives the land market value.
Union (CFU) president Doug Taylor-Freeme last week took a swipe at the
proposed amendment saying it would speed up the collapse of agriculture.
"It is extremely
alarming to note that a new proposed gazette announcing a constitutional
amendment to the Land Act has been put to parliament," he said. "It
is proposed that all land gazetted for acquisition since 2000 cannot be
contested in court. As virtually every white farmer has been listed for
acquisition in some way or the other this surely provides direct evidence
that a process of ethnic cleansing is taking place."
the proposed gazette was an admission that the existing Land Act was not
workable and that government had failed to acquire land in an orderly,
legal and amicable way, hence the use of violence, disruptions and forced
evictions that have occurred since 2000.
"If the objective
of the authorities by introducing such draconian legislation is to get
agriculture back to work they are wrong! It is likely to increase the
conflict of ownership of the business on the land and reduce meaningful
investment in agriculture," Taylor-Freeme said.
He said there was
no will or capacity to find a lasting solution to the crisis in the farming
sector because fundamental principles had not been dealt with.
output has predictably declined further despite claims from various authorities
that more hectares have been planted and higher tonnages expected. In
the business world such claims have become a national joke as authorities
attempt to cover up the reality on the ground," he said.
a major constraint to increased productivity was the uncertainty of tenure
in the agricultural sector where farmers are evicted on a daily basis.
amendment comes at a time when prospects of producing enough food in the
2005/6 season have been dealt a major blow by the shortage of inputs.
Seed and fertiliser
companies revealed to farmers at their recent annual congress that they
would not be able to meet the country's requirements due to forex shortages
and continued evictions of producers.
maize seed producer, Seed Co, said a paltry 33 000 tonnes of seed would
be available from local producers.
Seed Co chief executive
Pat Devenish said around 16 000 tonnes were expected from his company.
"Our seed production
dropped from 26 000 tonnes last year to an estimated 16 000 tonnes expected
this year," Devenish said. "The drop can be attributed to poor
rains this year and lack of expertise on seed production by the new farmers."
Pannar and other seed
houses are expected to avail 17 000 tonnes.
100 000 tonnes of maize seed to meet demand for its commercial, resettled
and communal farmers. The deficit can only be covered through expensive
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