Arbitrary compensation policy robbery

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Although the government promised to compensate victims of the Tokwe Mukosi floods US$9 million, Zimbabwe has never really had clear policies and a legal framework on compensation, hence problems whenever people are forcibly moved.

Wongai Zhangazha

Last week Zanu PF politburo tasked Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Patrick Chinamasa to mobilise the funds to compensate about 3 000 families displaced by the floods, following stiff resistance from the families to be moved without compensation in a case which highlighted problems associated with compensation.

The villagers accused government of defaulting on an earlier promise to allocate each family four hectares of land.

The government was instead offering each family one-hectare plots and has pegged nearly 1 000 plots along the Mbizi railway line in Nuanetsi Ranch as it seeks to decongest Chingwizi, where the floods victims are currently located.

Authorities assured villagers that payment would be made once they moved to Chingwizi, but the flood victims refused to move from the holding camp arguing that they did not have money to build homes at the new plots.

The villagers are arguing that many issues are unclear to them since they were not consulted as the government decided their fate, hence the conflict.

Compensation issues for villagers have never been really successful and in most cases villagers are always at the losing end.

Last week an international non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the displaced families moved to Chingwizi transit camp on Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi district from where they had lived were not consulted about their relocation site, as required under international standards, and are now being forced from the transit camp onto one-hectare plots.

The organisation found a grave humanitarian situation in the Chingwizi camp in April and revealed that during their relocation to Nuanetsi Ranch, hundreds of families lost household property and livestock while at Chingwizi camp property left in the open for several months was destroyed.

“Until appropriate compensation is paid and families are relocated and conditions for self-sufficiency are restored, the government should ensure the distribution of regular food assistance and other forms of support,” said HRW.

Human rights lawyer Andrew Makoni said sadly as far as Tokwe Mukosi victims compensation was concerned, the law violates the rights of citizens and overprotects the state.

He said the law shuts the door to a litigant to challenge such acquisition because the constitution states one cannot challenge agricultural land acquisition in court.

Makoni said: “In terms of section 72(1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe, the government may acquire agricultural land for land reorganisation, forestry, environmental conservation, or the utilisation of wildlife or other natural resources.

In this case the land at Tokwe-Mukosi was acquired in order to harness water for irrigation purposes.

In terms of section 72(3)(a), no compensation for the land acquired is payable to any person or entity but only for improvements on the piece of land.

“The displaced villagers are in terms of the law entitled to compensation for improvements. I understand that the Government has offered some form of compensation. I do not know whether that offer has been made on humanitarian grounds or in compliance with the constitution. I am also not aware whether the villagers have accepted the offer by Government.”

Makoni said if the offer has been made on humanitarian grounds, it is subject to the acceptance by the villagers.

“If the villagers accept the offer, then a legal obligation would have been created in terms of which the Government will be under an obligation to satisfy the offer failing which the villagers may sue the State,” he said.

According to a report by Parliament Portfolio Committee report on Mines and Energy on Diamond Mining with specific reference to Marange diamond fields 2009-2013 that was led by the late Edward Chindori Chininga a number of promises made were not being fulfilled for the villagers.

The villagers were forcibly moved Marange to pave way for diamond mining after the government and mining companies made numerous promises that their lives would be improved on being relocated to ArdaTransau.

Manicaland provincial officials however told the parliamentary committee that mining companies were not willing to co-operate in the construction of an irrigation project at ArdaTransau so as to build stable and sustainable livelihoods for the communities.

At the same time the Committee observed that Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and the provincial task force did not have a clear relocation policy to guide the mining companies in the relocation program. It was left to the discretion of the mining houses.

The committee also noted with concern that there was lack of effective communication between the mining companies, the provincial relocation committee and the communities on the relocation program.

As a result some households still living in Marange suspended most of their livelihoods such as farming on the grounds that they would be relocated causing anxiety and food insecurity within the community.

Last month relocated villagers told a preparatory workshop of the Manicaland alternative mining indaba that promises of decent accommodation, proper health and educational facilities, lights, nice road network, schools, clinics and shops were far from being reached.

The companies were also said to be taking long to conclude projects such as the refurbishment of Wellington Primary School, which was affecting their children’s progress in school.

Environmental lawyer with Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, Shamiso Mtisi said the law is ineffective on compensation as there is no clear legal framework on the issue.

Mtisi said: “There is a framework of procedures that was developed by the Ministry of local government in the 1990s but it is not properly followed. The new constitution has a provision that states that citizens have a right of freedom from arbitrary eviction from their destroyed homes without a court order.

“If government is to relocate the villagers it has to send evaluators and see what property each and family owned, whether they had a borehole, cattle and crops for examples. All this should be considered. However what we have is that there is no carrying out of adequate evaluation of property. Such that all people would be given blanket allowances for example households in Chiadzwa who were given US$1 000 each.”

Mtisi said United Nations guiding principles on internal displacements and other international principles should be considered for relocation.

Some of the provisions of the UN guiding Principles on Internal Displacements state that “authorities undertaking such displacement shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to the displaced persons, that such displacements are effected in satisfactory conditions of safety, nutrition, health and hygiene, and that members of the same family are not separated”.

He added that the Water Act was very applicable in the Tokwe Mukosi incident as government was responsible for the poor construction of the Tokwe-Mukosi dam, thus according to the Act the project developer is responsible to provide adequate shelter, food and clothing.

“Our government at the moment does not even have the money. Due to inadequate resources I wonder where these people will get compensation in the immediate future. The lack of accountability and transparency discourages any meaningful investor who would want to come and assist,” said Mtisi.

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