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changes tack on land grabs
Muleya, Business Day (SA)
September 21, 2006
IN THE clearest admission yet that
its chaotic land-reform programme has failed, Zimbabwe has introduced
a new law to ban farm invasions.
Land (Consequential Provisions) Bill will repeal the Rural Land
Occupiers (Protection from Eviction) Act that sheltered farm invaders.
This move can be seen as a belated
measure to restore confidence, attract foreign investment and lure
It also takes place ahead of a visit
next week to Harare by an International Monetary Fund assessment
team after the country was singled out as the weak link in regional
growth. But the legislation will be a double-edged sword for farmers.
While it will protect farmers battling invasions, it will make it
illegal for them to remain on their land after acquisition notices
This has raised fear that cabinet ministers
and senior officials want to outlaw invasions to protect themselves
instead of the farmers. To fuel suspicion, the law paves the way
for more government takeovers. The state has taken about 11-million
hectares from white commercial farmers.
Farmers who continue to occupy land
earmarked for acquisition by the state will now be jailed for a
week or evicted under the law. Already there is a constitutional
amendment to prevent farmers from appealing against arbitrary confiscation.
The new law comes against a backdrop
of worsening agricultural failures. The collapse of agriculture
due to state-sponsored farm seizures since 2000 has spawned acute
shortages of basic foodstuffs, including bread, maize meal, beef,
cooking oil, milk and sugar. There have also been shortages of critical
agriculture-related commodities such as fertiliser, seed and stockfeed.
The latest bread shortages worsened
yesterday with bread disappearing from shop shelves.
In his seconding reading of the bill
on Tuesday, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement Minister Didymus
Mutasa said the law was intended to deal with "continued occupation
of gazetted land without lawful authority".
"The bill seeks to make it punishable
by law to hold, use or occupy a piece of land gazetted for resettlement
purposes without lawful authority," he said. "It also
addresses the issue of unlawful fresh farm occupations."
Mutasa said continued illegal occupation
of land after the expiry of the prescribed 90 days’ acquisition
notice would result in offenders getting sentences "not exceeding
seven days" and being evicted from the farms.
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