Ruth Butaumocho African Agenda
Land lies at the heart of social, political and economic life in most of Africa. Most agricultural-related projects, natural resources and other land-based activities that are fundamental to livelihoods, food security, incomes and employment heavily rely on land.
To this day, land also continues to have major historical and spiritual significance for Africa’s people.
The need to recover appropriated land from the black majority torched the flames of the liberation movements, which subsequently led to liberation struggles across Africa.
Naturally the black liberation narrative, which many love to refer to as “black majority rule” was tied to the total appropriation of African resources, which were largely hinged on land.
All the efforts by South African’s African National Congress, MPLA of Angola, Chama Cha Mapinduzi of Tanzania, Mozambique’s Frelimo and several other liberation movements was meant to ensure access to means of production for their people.
Land was the nexus to the means of production.
In Zimbabwe, thousands of our gallant sons and daughters lost their lives fighting to unshackle the yoke of the coloniser and reclaim millions of hectares of their land.
Given the historical narrative of land which resulted in numerous wars of conquest and territorial dispossession, different forms of expropriation and exploitation historically, the land issue remains an area of contestation.
Lately the land narrative has become an emotive one, amid a national outcry against individuals and groups of people who are insidiously parcelling out State land.
The clique that has over the years earned itself the moniker “land barons” are now parcelling out vast tracts of urban land across all major cities and towns across Zimbabwe.
Some of land barons are working in cahoots with local authorities’ employees to create highly sophisticated parallel activities outside local authorities’ structures.
Like the proverbial Ananias and Sapphira, local authorities’ employees, often give land barons the leads, by incorporating fictitious residential stands during land planning, which they then offload to waiting land barons for a song.
Hundreds of desperate home seekers have been duped of their hard-earned cash with promises to be allocated residential stands, while some found themselves being allocated land reserved for recreational facilities or other community amenities.
Worried by activities of the land barons, last year President Mnangagwa set up a commission of inquiry into the sale of State land in and around urban settlements, which unearthed a litany of shocking shady deals around land.
The Justice Tendai Uchena-led commission revealed that land barons, co-operative leaders, property developers and politically-connected people, illegally sold US$3 billion worth of urban State land since 2005.
Suffice to say, the majority of the said land barons have not stopped their illicit deals. Some unrepentant ones, continue to walk around freely and are said to be oiling some sections of the law enforcements agents to avert arrest and have their cases thrown out of the courts for lack of evidence.
We believe the time is nigh for land barons and their proxies to face the music, for appropriating land that belonged to both the State and local authorities.
The nation cannot be held to ransom by a few greedy individuals, who are exploiting loopholes within the municipalities to siphon vast tracts of land for their personal grandeur.
A snap survey in each town and cities, will give out the names of people who are parcelling out land with impunity under the eye of law enforcement agents, amid allegations that some police officers are part of these land cartels.
Such people should be brought to book to answer to charges of appropriating land, and send a strong warning to the would-be-perpetrators on the consequence.
Last week, the ruling party, Zanu PF’s highest decision making body, the Politburo called for the prosecution of those involved.
The party raised the red flag on the re-emergence of land barons in Harare and Chitungwiza.
Speaking after the Politburo meeting last week, acting party spokesperson Cde Patrick Chinamasa said the party’s supreme organ had noted the corruption with concern.
“We call upon relevant authorities to take drastic action in dealing with such vices which have seen the re-emergence of illegal settlements fronted by a fresh crop of land barons and baronesses,” he said.
“The security of arms of the State should deal decisively with such elements without considering their political affiliation.”
This is yet another opportunity for the country to demonstrate that it abhors corruption and severely punish those who engage in it, in that way, sending a strong message to those who might be tempted that crime does not pay, it, in fact, only ends in their misery.
The political will under the Second Republic to deal with corruption is certainly there.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is geared to sanitise the nation — the arrests of former minister Prisca Mupfumira over alleged crimes at the National Social Security Authority and other high profile figures — are cases in point.
Convictions plus relevant, painful punishments must follow.
If found guilty, as many citizens believe, the corrupt must not only be jailed, but the land they stole must be handed back to the State.
They must also compensate the State, whose land they fraudulently acquired, and their unsuspecting clients.
Their clients deserve restitution because many of them were cheated, after they bought stands that had not been serviced or where located on wetlands, servitudes, sites set aside for schools, clinics and recreation or other places where housing was not allowed.
Recently President Mnangagwa assured the nation that the Government will continue investigating and clamping down on corruption as it continues to pursue goals towards achieving Vision 2030 and removing impediments towards realisation of those objectives.
He also called on the justice system to step up the fight against corruption and bring an end to the “catch-and-release syndrome”, adding that the arrest of “small and big fish” should become the new normal.
Land barons are well known and continue to roam the streets daily. We await to see those entrusted with the responsibility to measure up to the task and bring sanity to this nation.