GOVERNMENT has stepped up efforts to curb multiple land ownership by gazetting the Land Commission Bill to allow for periodic land audits.
BY Everson Mushava
This comes as several Zanu PF bigwigs and top government officials have been implicated in corrupt land deals that have seen most of them acquire multiple prime farms at the expense of the general populace.
The Bill, gazetted last Friday, will allow the establishment of the Land Commission, whose main task will be to conduct comprehensive inspections and audits of agricultural land in order to ensure fairness and transparency in the distribution of the properties.
The Land Commission replaces the Agricultural Land Resettlement Board.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is declared that, conformably to section 297(3) of the Constitution, the commission exercises its functions (apart from its dispute settlement function) subject to any policy directive, which the minister may give it. The commission shall do such other things, not inconsistent with the constitution or this Act, as may be required by the minister,” section 4(1)(2) of the Bill reads.
The Bill provides for the independence and impartiality of both the members and the commission.
According to section 7 of the Bill, the commission will be required to submit a report to the Lands minister not more than 60 days after the end of each financial year.
The commission has also been empowered to refuse to investigate complaints that are not authorised by the Bill.
The Bill, which appears to give too much powers to the Lands minister, will also provide recommendations for land usage, land usage size, acquisitions and compensation.
In consultation with the Finance minister, the Lands minister will also be empowered to charge monthly or annual rentals to be payable by holders of partially alienated State land.
The Lands minister will also give directions to the commissions on policies that he considers to be in the national interest.
“No legal proceedings shall lie against the commission or any member of the commission or the executive of any acting under the direction of the commission in respect of anything which is done in good faith and without gross negligence in pursuance of this Act,” section 58 reads.