The end of the last decade was marked by a depressing political event in Zimbabwe — the retrogressive announcement by Attorney- General Johannes Tomana that “all the land in the country belongs to the government and as such no individual has the right to disobey a government directive to vacate such.”
This feudal assertion effectively renders all Zimbabweans landless, an insolent populist proclamation — extremely offensive and unconstitutional — and poses a serious threat to our sovereignty by negating the tenets of our basic citizenship rights.
Independence becomes a hollow, meaningless word if any politician abruptly takes the freedoms and rights to property ownership from any Zimbabwean without recourse to the law. How can our most venerated collective heritage — land — be vested in the custody of known pilferers and devious politicians bent on grandiose self-enrichment crusades?
When a legal instrument that would invalidate title deeds was proposed in October 2003 by then Minister of State for Information and Publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo, some misinformed and gullible Zimbabweans gave a standing ovation.
He raucously announced that: “We need a legal instrument that makes those title deeds a little lower than toilet paper, forever a nullity that invites ridicule in any decent court of law.”
Since then productive farms, misappropriated by Zanu PF officials through the needless violent evictions of their owners, have been subdivided into unproductive smallholdings, residential plots, housing co-operatives for the party faithful or sold to the landless in hard currency for a profit to the politically connected.
The very Zimbabweans, whom the land belongs to in the first place, now have to buy it from the liberators in cash and kind. It effectively means that even the lands upon which the foundations of our homes, factories or businesses are anchored, have become state property and can be taken away without compensation or justification at a moment’s notice.
Most peasants have no title deeds with which to defend themselves against the government’s illegal evictions. However, senior members of Zanu PF own multiple farms and other properties secured with
title deeds from the same colonial tenure system we all detest. “Njere dzavabenzi kutamba nemoto iwo maoko avo ari ehuswa!” (It is only a fool who plays with fire when his arms are made out of grass).
What is “the state”, who is “the state”? “The state” is essentially the Zanu PF politburo and its ruthless Joint Operations Command (JOC) that decides who lives or dies, who gets land and who does not. Unelected members of a political party politburo — rogue military officers and common criminals — now govern Zimbabwe. Together they make political decisions laced with social and economic prejudices that create “the state” which now decides everything for the people without debate.
All Zimbabweans have unceremoniously been dispossessed of their inalienable property rights by a clique of dishonest political speculators masquerading as revolutionaries.
Regrettably, the liberators of yesteryear have subdued the democratic spirit of the vulnerable and traumatised populace and molested the will of ordinary citizens as a cover for their flagrant thievery and affirmative looting.
Zimbabwe is fertile for a homegrown grassroots social revolt, a vigorous renaissance of its national psyche that will pit the unmerited recipients of looted national assets against patriotic and loyal citizens, currently relegated to the fringes.
This disenfranchised group are indigenous citizens with no liberation war record, but who possess the same birthrights that cannot be transferred or surrendered to anyone except by the person possessing them; rights that entitle all citizens to a fair share of Zimbabwe’s abundant resources regardless of their political affiliation.
When did Zimbabweans surrender their land and private property rights to Zanu PF?
Zimbabwe has a total land area of 390, 580 square km, about 39 million hectares of which 33,3 million hectares are suitable for agricultural purposes and the remaining six million hectares reserved for national parks, wildlife, and urban settlements.
People all over Africa who have had their land taken away or stolen during colonial rule are demanding it back as a way of redressing the social injustice of colonialism. Ownership is 90% of the law and no one wants the government to own the land and loan it to its citizens with caveats attached to the lease that perpetuate antediluvian policies.
The constitution has been abrogated and the exploitation of Zimbabwe’s land and natural resources by a privileged clique, veiled under the mist of the pre-planned chaos of the so-called land reform, is underway.
As the richer get richer, Zanu PF has amassed vast tracks of land and 90% of Zimbabwe’s prime agricultural land that used to be in the hands of “colonial settlers” is now firmly in the hands of our liberators some of whom are bogus.
Through constitutional amendments that occurred while the rest of society was sleeping, indifferent, or applauding, Zimbabwean land has been nationalised.
The system of tenure has been changed into freehold, leasehold and statehold. Freehold tenure is absolute title to land, free of any other claims against the title, which one can sell or pass to another by will or inheritance which is mostly reserved for senior members of Zanu PF. All emergent property development companies in Zimbabwe derive their landholdings from misappropriated private property.
The 99-year leases are now applicable to statehold land, but can be violently taken away from the lessor at a moment’s notice and given to those who toe the party line. Commercial freehold land that once had a monetary worth, has now been rendered valueless; leases cannot be used as collateral for farming loans and have no market value.
A tiny opportunistic group of Zanu PF officials who now control all land through a flawed partisan system has devalued 33 million hectares of Zimbabwean land. Ownership of land s now firmly held in the talons of the Zanu PF politburo, selectively empowers only those indigenous persons parroting its divisive slogans.
Another African proverb: “The child that leaves the fate of his future in the hope of inheriting property sets himself up for a life of poverty.”
Zanu PF reserves the right to evict “new farmers” and reallocate the same piece of land to new landholders by declaring the occupier unproductive.
Mere semantics that could mean anything from not producing specified crops or financially supporting Zanu PF when called upon to do so, justify removing land ownership rights — the very land rights that caused real freedom fighters to go to war and die.
Last year “new farmers” were ejected by their Zanu PF chefs from the very farms that they had been allocated under the fast-track land programme. The 99-year leases they were holding were cancelled by “the state”. Their crime: failing to contribute to the 21st February Movement, an imitation North Korean-style outfit, the Great Leader personality cult that celebrates Mugabe’s birthday. The beneficiaries of land today will be evicted in future using the same methods by which they acquired the land.
Politically motivated land occupations are now legal in Zimbabwean and self-centred Zanu PF constitutional amendments protect unlawful land invaders and reward private asset embezzlement. “In a broken nest there are few whole eggs.”
By Phil Matibe