HomeOpinionCandid Comment: ‘Ancestral land’ is an outmoded concept

Candid Comment: ‘Ancestral land’ is an outmoded concept

THERE are several issues around what are called “ancestral lands”. One is religion, in Zimbabwe’s case, ancestor worship; another is land tenure while yet another is the exploitation of the natural resources in the land.

Such resources include the soil itself, the animals, the trees and the minerals underground.  The most important issue at the moment is the treatment of people who have to inevitably migrate from these lands to make way for development.

Ancestor worship is not an institutionalised religion, most of it exists only in the minds of its practitioners. Had it been institutionalised  codified like other world religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism it would have evolved to cope with sociological and technological developments happening in today’s world. Christians have built churches, Muslims mosques and Jews synagogues. This means their religions are portable.

Zimbabweans on the other hand regard graves as the most important monuments of their religion. This is problematic especially because indigenous Zimbabweans bury their people anywhere they feel like instead of burying them in cemeteries.  This is why it is difficult for them to migrate when it becomes imperative because they don’t want to leave behind their “shrines” which are not portable.

“Ancestral lands” is an outmoded concept; people are moving all the time due to pressures that come with sustenance. People are always drifting to where they can get food and all the other necessities of life. All over the world people are moved, often forcibly, to make way for developments such as the building of roads, the opening of mines or the development of agricultural estates or conservancies.

In Zimbabwe, the land belongs to the state; that is what the supreme law of the country says. So, the state can move people from certain lands to others for the sake of development. The Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05] explicitly states that the rights to minerals are vested in the President of the republic.

“The dominium in and the right of searching and mining for and disposing of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gases, notwithstanding the dominium or right which any person may possess in and to the soil on or under which such minerals, mineral oils and natural gases are found or situated, is vested in the President, subject to this Act.”

What is happening in certain parts of the country such as Uzumba, Chilonga and Hwange where people were supposed to move to make way for mining and agricultural estates is nothing new and is perfectly legal.

But the government has been remiss in its planning and communication of its intention to move people from one place to another. It is incumbent upon the government to ensure that all communities that have to be moved are moved properly and humanely to arable lands where they can resume their lives seamlessly. This is the heart of the matter.

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