HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsNo going back on land . . . Really?

No going back on land . . . Really?

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There will be no going back on land, it is said! Really . . ? I do not think so! Perhaps only in so far as the dispossession of non-indigenous Zimbabweans is concerned, but certainly not in respect of the iniquitous manner in which land has been parcelled out among the elite and doyens of patronage.

There will be a going back on land, that much is a certainty.

Who currently owns and occupies the land and what is the criteria for such ownership/occupation? What entitles some people to ownership of multiple, vast tracks of land, to the exclusion of others? Who is this landed gentry, and what differentiates them from the rest of the landless masses?

What is the rationale of their ownership of so much land, in circumstances where the majority can only ogle in awe, like orphans peeping through a fence as the rich gorge themselves gluttonously at a Christmas party?

We have cases where fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces from same families own multiple, vast tracts of land, in circumstances where the majority of our people are still crammed up and eking a living on bare, poor and arid scraps of land.

They have even hidden away land in shelf companies and in the custody of nominees.

What entitles this elite to choice pickings, when the majority is scraping the barrel? They have also frustrated every initiative for a land audit, wanting instead to put forward their own version which masks and camouflages their contraband.

First and foremost, the primacy of land to any nation cannot be overemphasised. Land is the very substratum upon which nationhood is founded.

It is so imperatively central to a nations existence and wellbeing that without it, there simply is no nation.
Many conflicts throughout the world have been ignited by land issues.

The colonising robber barons of old had a seriously flawed appreciation of land in that they had an entirely speculative appreciation of land, and not a political one, and by being so situated, they set themselves up for eventual overthrow. They were sitting on a time-bomb, with the fuse burning from day one. It was only a matter of time!

The Lancaster House Agreement which gave self-rule to Zimbabwe merely dealt with the land issue peripherally, deferring key issues thereof to a later time.

There was not even a signed document relating to land, save for a casual understanding, backed by America. There was also somewhat of a dearth in negotiating skill and depth on the part of the nationalists, who were clearly long on recalcitrant rhetoric and grandstanding, and short on a clear understanding of the principle of compensation and reparations.

They merely pushed a deficient position of taking land without compensation.

That argument was seriously flawed. Compensation and/or reparations were a critical, integral and essential element of the discussion scope, but compensation in favour of the historically dispossessed and not the dispossessor.

How does one dispossess a people of its inalienable right to land, have exclusive use of such land for close to a century and still have the temerity to claim compensation from the dispossessed rightful owners of that land? What skewed justice is that?

To illustrate my point, let us say a thief steals my car and uses it for a year, and when I eventually apprehend him and take back my car, the thief asks for compensation for the spraypaint job he has had done to the car and the 50 litres of petrol he has just put into the tank.

This is madness! It is the thief or dispossessor, who should compensate me for the loss of use I suffered as a result of his dispossessing me of my vehicle.

How this was lost on the nationalist negotiators boggles the mind. Its not even about hard bargaining, its a function of natural justice.

An owner has an inherent right to reclaim his property wherever and whenever he can. That it universal law. It is not for the thief or dispossessor to plead compensation.

Nowhere in the world has an owner been expected to pay compensation on recovery of his property from unlawful possession.

By discussing compensation in such a warped matrix, the negotiators turned the principle of compensation on its head. They demonstrated great naivety and lack of attention to critical detail.

Perhaps they were men in a hurry for a settlement, given that the Frontline States were at the end of their tether, in view of the torrent of devastating air raids they were suffering from Rhodesians.

The possession of land from inception of colonialism by the settlers had defective title, and all subsequent holders of same had equally defective title, perhaps, save for land that changed hands under the auspices of the Zimbabwean government from 1980.

I also think that there was absolutely no need for a violent land takeover as the government of the day had sufficient numbers in Parliament to put the necessary constitutional amendments in place to expropriate land lawfully. Zambia did it overnight in parliament without killing its people or destroying the infrastructure.

But most worrisome is the perpetuation of speculative appreciation of land syndrome in the present so-called land reform programme. The present dispensation with regards to land does not appear to have drawn any lessons from the past.

Land is still being parcelled out to the elite, cronies, senior civil servants, relatives, friends and those connected to the patronage system on a speculative basis.

Land is a God-given, finite resource, given in equal measure to the natural indigenes of a defined jurisdiction.

It is not for any particular grouping to think they have a right to parcel it out to some, to the exclusion of others, and think that that situation will prevail forever.

There will be some going back on the land issue, and those that have hoarded some will be forced to release it to others . . . you can mark this one down, believe me!

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