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Big Saturday Read: At the Mercy of the State: Plight of the Chilonga Community

Alex T. Magaisa

Plight of Chilonga

Until a few weeks ago, the Chilonga community in Chiredzi was hardly known to most of their fellow Zimbabweans. Like many remote communities around the country, they fit the cliché of ‘a forgotten people’ and rarely feature in the national discourse. Their area is dry and desolate. Over the last hundred years, members of the Shangaan ethnic minority have been shoved from one place to another, to make way for colonial settlers and when sugar capitalists moved in to set up their huge estates.

However, like so many of their fellow citizens, they took adversity on the chin and made their home in these parlous conditions. Since they had no option, they learned to live with the little that was at their disposal. Their forebearers are buried there. Their shrines are there. Chilonga is their home. But 41 years after their country got independence, they are being forced to move again. A few weeks ago, the government issued a statutory decree, ordering them to depart permanently from their home. The storm clouds had been gathering for some time, but they never imagined their government would go ahead and push them out.

On 26 February 2021, the government issued a statutory decree, SI50/2021 announcing the order for their departure. Every person in the area was “ordered to depart permanently with all of his or her property from the said land by the date of publication of [the] notice …” read section 3 of SI50/2021. They learned that they were making way for a dairy company that intended to use the land to grow grass for its cows. The company is called Dendairy. It is based in the Midlands province, far away from the Chilonga community. The men who came, according to members of the community, claimed that they had authority from the office of President Mnangagwa.

A Reactionary Regime

The irony of the Chilonga people’s predicament is not lost on many Zimbabweans and all those that have followed the contentious issue of land in Zimbabwe from afar. The company that was earmarked to take over the land of the Chilonga community, Dendairy was founded by the Coetzee family, which owns a thriving dairy farming business. The displacement of the Chilonga community, therefore, represents the very opposite of what happened during the Fast-Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP), championed by ZANU PF under Robert Mugabe in the 2000s.

During the FTLRP, the land was taken from white farmers on the justification of redressing colonial land imbalances. Now, however, thousands of black peasant families were being forced off their land for a white farmer and this was being done under a ZANU PF government. The irony could not be starker. But it is also an accurate representation of the reactionary nature of the Mnangagwa regime and its lack of ideological principle and direction. It is not a government of ideas but a regime of opportunism, patronage, and profiteering.

However, the plight of the Chilonga community is not isolated. It reflects a systemic problem and to appreciate the systemic nature of this challenge, one must examine the political economy of Communal Land in Zimbabwe. This helps to demonstrate the power dynamics involved in Communal Areas and why citizens who are referred to in zoological terms as “inhabitants” under the relevant legislation are eternally at the mercy of the State.

Communal Lands as Sites of Struggle

The Communal Land is a major site of struggle where holders of state power exercise almost unfettered power over their “inhabitants” who remain in a position of perpetual subordination and control. Their condition of poverty and deprivation is an advantage to the powerful as it preserves their role as benefactors in exchange for dependency and political allegiance by the citizens of Communal Lands. This, I argue, might help to explain why there is no incentive to reform the colonially-inspired legal and governance infrastructure of Communal Lands, four decades into independence.

The plight of the Chilonga community cannot be fully comprehended without an appreciation of the historical roots of the concept of Communal Land which is a colonial relic. While the notion of Communal Land was an invention of the colonial establishment, albeit as Native Reserves and later Tribal Trust Lands, the post-colonial government has found it convenient and maintained it. In this article, I provide a brief account of the historical origins of Communal Land and examine the legal framework governing its occupation, use, and allocation. Finally, I examine the constitutional validity of the legislation governing Communal Land and conclude that the order evicting the Chilonga community is unconstitutional.

While most of the focus on agricultural land has been on the former white-owned commercial farms, there are great opportunities for political actors to craft policies to carry out comprehensive reforms regarding Communal Land. The issue of Communal Land is too important to be ignored. Most of the population live there and many of those who left still maintain critical familial links with their Communal Land.

Colonial Origins of Communal Lands

Few subjects have received as much attention as the issue of land in Zimbabwe. This is not an attempt to review this rich vein of literature and to do a detailed historical account concerning land. It suffices to state that the concept of Communal Land has roots in the colonial order. The idea of Communal Land was one side of the binary where the other was private land which was largely allocated to the white settler community after 1890 when the territory became a British colony.

Rise of the Reserves (Maruzevha)

When black people were displaced, they were relocated to “reserves”, some of which, like the Gwaai and Shangani Reserves, were unsuitable for human habitation. The 1898 Native Reserves Order in Council by the British Government, which came after the First Chimurenga, an uprising against white settler rule, made provision for the creation of “Native Reserves” ostensibly to “protect” the rights of “natives” (blacks) to access land. These Native Reserves, which were ruled by Native Land Commissioners, were in poor, low-rainfall areas that were located far away from markets or access routes.

The predicament of the displaced “natives” became apparent when the Privy Council of the House of Lords was called upon to resolve a dispute over the ownership of unalienated land. The British South Africa Company, which had administered the territory since 1890 was claiming title while the British Crown was also asserting its rights. The Privy Council found in favour of the Crown, although the BSAC was awarded an order of compensation to cover its administrative costs. The blacks got nothing. In dismissing the claim that had been submitted on their behalf the Privy Council stated:

"The estimation of the rights of aboriginal tribes is always inherently difficult. Some tribes are so low in the scale of social organization that their usages and conceptions of rights and duties are not to be reconciled with the institutions or the legal ideas of civilized society. Such a gulf cannot be bridged. It would be idle to impute to such people some shadow of the rights known to our law and then to transmute it into the substance of transferable rights of property as we know them."

The binary of the civilized/uncivilized was the discourse that was deployed to justify not only the colonial enterprise but also the expropriation of land from and removal of black people to the poor reserves. These reserves became communal lands just after independence. Scholars have long recognized the constructions of these myths regarding traditional landholding which were convenient to the colonial enterprise. One scholar, Angela Cheater referred to it as the “process of constructing the myth of 'communal' land”. The problem is that these colonially constructed myths were carried on into the post-independence era and still form the current legal order. As we shall observe, these continuities are because these myths serve the post-independence governments, just like they were useful to the colonial regimes.

Racial Segregation

In the early 1920s, the British Government set up the Morris Carter Commission, whose recommendations were adopted into law when the Land Apportionment Act was enacted in 1930, cementing racial segregation which had begun in the 1890s. Native Purchase Areas were created to permit blacks to participate in the land market in that limited sector. They could not buy land in the areas designated for the white settler community.

This racial segregation was fortified by other laws, such as the Maize Control Act in 1934, which was designed to promote white settler commercial agriculture while holding back the black peasant farmers. It did this by allowing the purchase of maize from white commercial farmers at preferential prices to black peasant farmers’ produce, which was set at import prices, which were higher and therefore unattractive on the market. Some of these policies were designed to make farming unviable for black farmers to push them into the labour market for white commercial agriculture.

The communal lands have always been sites of struggle between the ordinary people and the repressive state. In the 1950s, the colonial regime introduced the Native Land Husbandry Act which was ostensibly designed to promote good agricultural practices such as the construction of contour ridges (makandiwa) and the destocking of livestock. The latter led to massive loss of cattle and other livestock, which hurt the black farmers badly given the value they placed in their cattle. The methods used by the colonial regime produced anger and resistance in the Communal Lands, which became a useful reservoir for the nationalists in the struggle for independence.

Tribal Trust Lands

After Ian Douglas Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), the colonial regime enacted the Tribal Trust Lands Act, which changed the name from “Native Reserves” and enacted the principle that the “tribal lands” were held in trust for the people. The relevance of this concept of trusteeship will become more apparent when we meet the current legislation later in this article. It also conferred powers to chiefs to allocate land in these tribal lands. It did not change the quality of the land. The Smith regime needed allies in the black community as part of its divide and rule strategy against an increasingly militant national movement. This was regarded as a “restoration” of traditional powers to chiefs and traditional leaders who happily accepted the role because it gave them a privilege. In doing so, they merely perpetuated and strengthened the colonial construct, but it also set the chiefs on a collision course with the militant nationalist movement, which would see them marginalized for some time after independence.

Between 1982 and 1983, the Government adopted the Communal Land Act (CLA), which was designed to regulate the classification, use, and occupation of Communal Land. It was a replacement of the Tribal Trust Land Act but in reality, the core notion of communal tenure persisted. It gave powers over the allocation of Communal Land to elected rural district councils (RDCs) as part of the democratic reforms. Relations between the new government of black nationalists and traditional leaders who had been partial to the colonial regime were still frosty.

The chiefs were not pleased by the dilution of their powers and the resistance was finally rewarded in the late 1990s when the Traditional Leaders Act (TLA) was enacted. It restored their powers to allocate land, albeit in consultation with elected rural district councils. These changes reflected the changing power dynamics at the political level. By then, the institution of chiefs had fallen in line with the ZANU PF government. The chiefs could be trusted with power in an area that is critical to ZANU PF’s political capital, but more on this later when we discuss the role of Communal Lands as a theatre of electoral politics. For now, it’s important to demonstrate the power structure in the Communal Lands as conferred by the law.

Legal Framework in Communal Lands

To appreciate the challenges faced by the Chilonga community, it is important to examine the legal framework of Communal Land. Communal Land is defined in section 3 of the Communal Land Act (CLA) as land which was called Tribal Trust Land under the Tribal Trust Land Act, 1979. This represents a continuity of the legal construct that, as we have already observed, was created during colonial times. The new government uncritically accepted the colonial construct and cemented it into law. This is the law that still applies today. There may have been a revolution about land formerly owned by white commercial farmers, but little has changed for those who have always been in communal areas.

The President’s Land

Most Zimbabweans may wallow in blissful ignorance of the fact that the law places all Communal Land in the hands of the President. Section 4 of the CLA provides that “Communal Land shall be vested in the President, who shall permit it to be occupied and used in accordance with this Act”. This gives the President vast power over Communal Land and its “inhabitants”, the term used in the CLA to refer to citizens of communal areas. There is no mention that the President holds it in trust for the citizens. Whereas the Tribal Trust Lands Act contained the notion of trusteeship, which meant the citizens had rights as beneficiaries, the CLA simply vests it in the President. As the further analysis will demonstrate, the CLA effectively makes the President a feudal lord.

Nevertheless, an argument can be made that the President is a constructive trustee and for that reason must exercise his powers to benefit, not to prejudice the citizens of Communal Land. A constructive trustee is a person who is not appointed as a trustee but occupies a position of trust. This provides a possible route to sue the President and his Minister where they exercise their powers in a manner that is unreasonable and prejudicial to the interests of citizens of a Communal Land. The Chilonga community can argue that the President and or his Minister have breached their duties as a constructive trustee.

Governance Structure

However, the magnitude of the President’s power over Communal Land becomes more apparent when the governance structure in this area is considered. When critics argue that the President has too much power, they often limit their view to what is provided for in the Constitution. However, legislation like the CLA provides a clearer view of the vast size of presidential powers. A similar law is the Water Act, which also vests all water in the President.

A quick survey of the governance structure provides a glimpse of these powers. Under section 3 of the Traditional Leaders Act (TLA), chiefs who “preside over communities inhabiting Communal Land and resettlement areas,” are appointed and can be removed by the President. The Minister of Local Government and Public Works has similar powers over headmen and village heads, the two other tiers of traditional leadership structure. This control over appointment and removal by the President and his Minister directly impacts the independence of traditional leaders. They must toe the line, or they will lose their posts, as evidenced by the experience of Chief Ndiweni, who was sacked by the President.

Lack of Tenure

Significantly, the inhabitants of Communal Land do not have ownership rights over the land they occupy. They are given the right to occupy and use the land. An inhabitant is defined under the CLA as a person who is entitled to reside in a Communal Land. The “use” of Communal Land is defined as including “the erection of any building or enclosure, ploughing, hoeing, the cutting of vegetation, the depasturing of animals or the taking of sand, stone or other materials therefrom”. This is an interesting definition, especially the reference to “other materials” but this is not the place to go into much detail.

Persons who are entitled to occupy and use Communal Land are those who had acquired such rights before the law came into force in 1983, which protected pre-existing rights from the colonial set-up and therefore represented continuity. They also include persons who were granted any right, consent, or permit to occupy and use the land under the Act or any other law. Finally, the spouse, dependent relative, guest, or employee of such a person are also permitted to occupy or use Communal Land. As already stated, communal farmers have rights of usufruct which are granted by the Chief.

Under section 8 of the CLA, a person may occupy and use Communal Land for agricultural or residential purposes with the consent of the RDC established for that area. A qualification is added by the Traditional Leaders Act which gives chiefs power to allocate land with the approval of the RDC. In considering the application for a permit, the authorities are required to consider the customary law relating to the allocation, occupation, and use of land in the area and to consult and co-operate with the chief. They must grant consent only to persons who are regarded as part of the community, “according to the customary law of the community that has traditionally and continuously occupied and used land in the area concerned”.

In the case of the Chilonga community, any newcomer should therefore be judged according to the customary law of that community. The only other persons who are permitted even if they do not qualify under local customary law are officers and employees of the rural district council. Anyone unhappy with the decision can appeal to the President, another instance that shows the extent of his power.

However, of significance is that the rights of inhabitants of Communal Land do not include ownership, which by law is the highest and most secure right. For decades, the lack of ownership rights for inhabitants of Communal Land was a great handicap because it deprived them of the opportunity to exploit the full economic potential of land as a live asset. For example, without ownership rights, this land cannot be used as collateral to borrow funds to invest in the farming business. Lack of access to capital is a serious handicap to farming entrepreneurs. This leaves them dependent on state handouts, a model that suits the ruling party well because it presents itself to poor farmers as the benevolent godfather.

While the courts have recognized that communal farmers have usufruct rights, which can be inherited, without secure title, they remain legally insecure and at the mercy of the President in whom rights to the land they occupy are vested. This is why the inhabitants of Communal Land are perennially vulnerable to the whims of the President and his Minister. This is the fate that has befallen the Chilonga community. However, as I demonstrate later in this article, the situation is different under the current Constitution where arguably, inhabitants of Communal Lands have property rights that must be protected.

Presidential and Ministerial Powers over Communal Land

Presidential Declarations

The President has the power to make significant changes to Communal Land. In terms of section 6 of the CLA, the President can declare that any land within Communal Land is no longer Communal land, in which case it becomes State Land. Thereafter it may be granted, sold, or otherwise disposed of under the Act or any other law. This is such a drastic power that fundamentally impacts the community because it alters the status of their land and therefore affects their rights to occupy and use it. Parliament is not involved in the use of this power.

The CLA does not place any serious limits on the use of presidential power over Communal Land. There is no definition of the criteria that the President must apply when making such a declaration. There is no requirement that the President must consider and uphold the interests of the affected community. There is provision for compensation in section 12 of the CLA but these are inadequate as will be discussed in a separate part of this article. To use the example of the Chilonga community, the President can declare that their land is no longer part of Communal Land and he will be well within his powers under the CLA to do so.

Why does this matter? It matters because every person who lives in a Communal Land must know that they are as vulnerable to this presidential power as the beleaguered Chilonga community. What is happening to the Chilonga community can happen to them too. This is a clear demonstration of the fact that communities in Communal Lands are at the mercy of the state.

Ministerial Power to Set Aside Communal Land

Apart from the President’s declaratory power, his Minister also has the power to set aside Communal Land and to evict the inhabitants. This is the power that is being used against the Chilonga community. Section 10 of the CLA confers power to the Minister to set aside Communal Land for certain purposes. This includes setting aside land for establishing a township, village, business centre, or industrial area. Land can also be set aside for an irrigation scheme after the designation of the land for such a scheme following a consultative process. In the case of the Chilonga people, this is the purpose for which the revised statutory instrument was issued. The Minister changed it from designating the land for growing Lucerne grass to establishing an irrigation scheme to fit within the CLA.

However, it is important to note that the Minister’s discretion is very broad. He can set aside land “for any purpose whatsoever … which he considers is in the interests of inhabitants of the area concerned or in the public interest or which he considers will promote the development of Communal Land generally or of the area concerned.” There is, therefore, no limit to the purposes for which the Minister may set aside Communal Land if he considers it to be “in the interests of the inhabitants” or “in the public interest” or for “development”.

This is problematic because first, what matters is what “he considers”, not what the inhabitants consider to be in their interests. It is a patronizing provision because it treats adult citizens as if they were minors whose interests are left to be decided by the Minister and they have no say in it. There is no legal requirement for the Minister to consult the community when he makes the determination. The provision only requires him to consult the RDC, which although it is elected, is literally at the mercy of the Minister. The BSR has previously shown how local authorities are virtually under the control of the Minister. He can direct a council and override its resolutions. The chief and other traditional leaders are also under the control of the central government.

Second, there is no definition of what constitutes “the public interest” or what counts as “development”. There is no guidance as to how he comes to determine what is in the “interests of the inhabitants of the area”. These are very broad and amorphous terms that can be twisted to justify anything. This explains why the removal of the Chilonga community is being justified on the developmental and public interest grounds, even though the Minister might be pushing an agenda that serves private parties which was the case when the purpose of setting aside the land was to grow Lucerne grass for Dendairy’s cows.

Reasonable Notice

It is doubtful whether the SI is consistent with the enabling legislation, CLA. For example, it is unreasonable that the date from which the Communal Land was set aside by the Minister was the same as the date on which the Chilonga community was required to depart. The law requires the statutory instrument to give a reasonable period for departure. The legislature could not have mandated the removal of people on the same date that the notice is issued.

Compensation

The only other issue relates to compensation, but this will be dealt with in more detail when considering the constitutional validity of the CLA and the SI. It suffices that Section 12 of the CLA has some provisions regarding compensation but I argue that these provisions do not satisfy the constitutional requirements and are therefore invalid. I now proceed to demonstrate my argument challenging the constitutionality of the CLA.

Constitutionality of the Communal Land Act

A look at the CLA through the prism of the Constitution produces some interesting results which raise serious questions over the legality of some of its provisions. Several constitutional rights are contravened, the main ones being section 71 (property rights) and 68 (administrative justice). For reasons of space, I will focus on property rights.

The first point to note is that Communal Land is not treated the same way as other agricultural lands.

Section 72 which deals with the right to agricultural land specifically excludes communal land from its definition. This means none of the rules that relate to agricultural land under the constitution apply to Communal Land.

However, the other implication is that the appropriate provision that deals with rights to Communal Land are section 71 of the Constitution. This provision protects property rights and has a broad definition of what constitutes “property”. It states that ‘"property" means property of any description and any right or interest in property. This definition is broad enough to cover property rights in respect of Communal Land. Subsection 2 provides that every person has a right to acquire, hold, occupy and do all things regarding all forms of property.

The first question is whether the rights of occupation and use of Communal Land constitute property under the definition of section 71. The answer should be in the affirmative. The rights to occupy or use Communal Land qualifies as a “right or interest in property” as defined in section 71. For that reason, even though they do not have ownership rights to the land, the inhabitants of Communal Land arguably have a “right or interest in property” and it is, therefore, a property that is protected under section 71. Communal Land occupiers therefore most certainly have property rights that must be safeguarded.

This is important because compulsory deprivation of property is prohibited unless certain conditions are met. In other words, the inhabitants of Communal Land cannot be deprived of their property rights unless the constitutional conditions set out in section 71 are satisfied. The second question is whether the order under SI50/21 and SI63A/2021 to permanently depart the Communal Land which they have been inhabiting constituted a deprivation of property rights? The answer to this is also in the affirmative because there is certainly removal of their rights to occupy and use the Communal Land.

The third question is whether this deprivation of property rights is permissible. In this case, we have to consider whether the factors listed under section 71(3) of the Constitution are satisfied.


i. The deprivation must be in terms of a law of general application. In this case, the deprivation is being done under statutory instruments under the authority of the CLA, both being laws of general application.


ii. The deprivation must be for several public interest reasons such as defence, public safety, town or country planning, etc, and also to develop or use the property for a purpose that benefits the community. The argument that is being used is that the irrigation scheme is a project that will be beneficial to the community. The initial reason, which was growing Lucerne grass for the benefit of a private business would have been hard to support, which is why the government abandoned it and chose to replace it with an irrigation scheme. Even then, the irrigation scheme will only satisfy this ground if the community remains in the Communal Land and can use it.


iii. The law under which the acquisition is taking place must require the acquiring authority to give reasonable notice of the intention to acquire the property to everyone affected. The CLA requires notice to be given before the land is set aside. However, as already stated, the SI which sets aside the land and gives the notice of eviction uses the same date – the date of publication of the SI. This hardly qualifies as reasonable notice.


iv. The law must also require the acquiring authority to pay fair and adequate compensation. Section 12 of the CLA provides for a compensation scheme. This could be alternative land or an agreement between the parties. In the absence of these, the compensation is to be calculated in terms of the mechanism under the Land Acquisition Act. However, the SIs do not make any statement regarding the compensation of the Chilonga community. Only political statements have been made that they will be relocated. There is therefore no way to know whether the alternative land is adequate compensation. Section 71 of the Constitution requires it to be “fair and adequate compensation”. There is good ground to challenge the offer of compensation because thus far there is none that is set out in the SI which orders the deprivation of their property rights.


v. If the acquisition is contested, the law must also require the acquiring authority to apply to a competent court before the acquisition or not more than 30 days after the acquisition for a confirmation of the acquisition. Neither the CLA nor the SIs has such a provision, which means they are unconstitutional.


vi. The law must also entitle any person whose property has been acquired to apply to a competent court for the prompt return of the property if the court does not confirm the acquisition. There is no such provision in the CLA or the SIs which makes them unconstitutional.


vii. The law must also entitle any claimant for compensation to apply to a competent court for the determination of-- i. the existence, nature, and value of their interest in the property concerned; ii. the legality of the deprivation; and iii. the amount of compensation to which they are entitled; and to apply to the court for an order directing the prompt payment of any compensation. Neither the CLA nor the SIs makes provision for this protection, which makes them unconstitutional.

The critical assessment of the CLA and the SIs issued to deprive the Chilonga community of their property rights demonstrates that they do not pass the constitutional test. Even though section 12 of the CLA allows for the resort to provisions of the Land Acquisition Act regarding compensation, it is as a last resort after the exhaustion of the primary modes of compensation neither of which satisfy the requirements of section 71 of the Constitution. It is the CLA itself that must provide for the robust protections of property rights that are mandated by section 71 of the Constitution. For these reasons, the CLA is unconstitutional, and the administrative action being undertaken by the government through the SI is therefore unconstitutional. There is a strong case to be made for the wholesale reform of the legislation governing Communal Land.

Nexus of Poverty and Power

What is evident from the analysis of the Constitution and the legislation about Communal Lands is that:


· The President has vast and almost untrammeled powers over Communal Land.


· The President can change the status of Communal Land to State land for any reason in which case the rights of inhabitants of Communal Land are adversely affected.


· While the legislation limits their rights to occupation and use leaves them vulnerable to the whims of the President and his Minister, the 2013 Constitution protects property rights to communal farmers. This means the Chilonga community is entitled to the constitutional protection of their property rights. This is an important test case which, if properly argued and decided, has the potential to have a fundamental reform to the law about Communal Land and the rights and interests of millions of Zimbabweans.


· Apart from property rights, the Chilonga community is also entitled to fair administrative action under the Constitution and the Administrative Justice Act. Although this point has not been argued in this article, it is arguable that these rights have been breached.

Why is there no appetite for reform?

If the rhetoric that the liberation war was fought for the land and if ZANU PF cares so much for peasant farmers in communal areas, why has it not undertaken any serious reforms concerning the rights and interests of people living in those areas? We have already observed that the concept of Communal Land is based on discredited colonial constructs that have also disadvantaged women for many generations. The explanation of the government’s indifference lies in politics.


With nearly 70% of the population residing in rural areas, this is a vast electoral constituency over which political actors want to have influence. In these circumstances, weak rights for the inhabitants and poverty are not a problem for the government. Rather, they present opportunities because they keep the impecunious inhabitants in a perpetual state of vulnerability and dependency upon the government. There is, therefore, no incentive for reform of Communal Lands. In this situation, government handouts in the form of food relief and agricultural inputs are “bribes” paid in return for votes in elections. It is hardly surprising then that the ZANU PF government has no real interest in reforming the antiquated Communal Land legal and economic infrastructure, although.

Another reason for maintaining this inequitable system is patronage. With the vast power that the President has over Communal Land, the potential for abuse is high. In particular, the President can use his power to feed his patronage networks. If his friends and associates want land anywhere in the Communal Lands, he has the power to change the status of Communal Land and he can also command his Minister to set aside the land. This, at any rate, appears to be what happened regarding the Chilonga area. President Mnangagwa has disclosed in the past that he is closely associated with the Coetzee family, which owns Dendairy. It’s not clear whether he or his associates have a financial interest in Dendairy but his association with the Coetzee family is enough to raise serious questions. It is not a coincidence that the President’s associates are beneficiaries of the removal of the Chilonga people from their Communal Land.

One good thing that has come out of this is that it has drawn eyes and attention to the inadequacies of the law relating to Communal Land. These are the substantive policy issues that should draw the attention of political parties. The opposition parties should be busy showcasing their alternative policies for Communal Land. If they do not have such policies, this is a great time to develop them. It is a great opportunity to sell an alternative model to citizens in communal areas. ZANU PF spent years talking about empowerment, but 41 years after independence, the inhabitants of Communal Lands are still in a position of weakness. They are even vulnerable to the whims of their President, who can wake up one day and decide to evict them and set aside their land for his friends so that they can grow grass for their cows. The true intention was to give the land to the President's friends. The irrigation scheme is an after-thought, forced on account of the scandalous exposure. Still, the Chilonga community must demand fair and adequate compensation for loss of their property rights and the law must be changed to properly empower citizens of Communal Lands, and not leave them at the mercy of corrupt politicians.

WaMagaisa


wamagaisa@yahoo.co.uk

wamagaisa@kent.ac.uk

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