Binga MP calls for protection of villagers

The government alleged that the villagers were settled on state land illegally.

BINGA South legislator Fanuel Cumanzala has called for legislation guaranteeing land rights to villagers settled on communal lands to protect them from arbitrary evictions.

Cumanzala from the Citizens Coalition for Change made the call in Parliament weeks after the government was forced to suspend the unpopular eviction of villagers across the country from their communal lands.

The government alleged that the villagers were settled on state land illegally.

Some of the victims were beneficiaries of the land reform programme that the late former president Robert Mugabe defended as necessary to correct colonial land imbalances between blacks and whites.

Cumanzala said the land imbalances still existed with ordinary villagers at the mercy of authorities and always at risk of eviction.

In his contribution in Parliament, Cumanzala said it was regrettable that the Zanu PF-led governemnt has failed to bring to finality the land question despite embarking on the land reform exercise.

“Now, although the Lancaster House agreement included provisions related to land reform, the issue of land redistribution remained unsolved and this is why in 2000 there was a fast track land reform programme,” he said.

“However, the question about individual ownership of land was not, and I am stressing, was not adequately addressed during the land reform programme.”

Thousands of white farmers were forced from their land, often violently, between 2000 and 2001.

The land grabs were meant to redress colonial era land grabs , contributed to the country's economic decline and ruined relations with the West.

A compensation scheme for local white farmers was launched by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2020 where the government promised them US$3.5 billion for infrastructure development on their seized farms.

Cumanzala said the question about individual ownership of land was not adequately addressed during the land reform exercise as seen in the majority of beneficiaries not having title deeds.

“Now the comprehensive and sustainable land reform that we are advocating for in this House is crucial in balancing social justice, economic viability and environmental sustainability,” he said.

He said there was a need to correct the decisions that were made in the 2000 Land Tenure Act to improve food security and economic development of the country.

"The land situation in our country necessitates rectifying historical injustices, enhancing food security and promoting economic development,” he said.

“However, achieving goals, these goals require addressing challenges such as land tenure.

“I would like to therefore propose land rights reforms that deal with the above mentioned challenges while leveraging opportunities for sustainable development.”

He said the objective was to strike a balance between individual property rights and communal stewardship, ‘fostering sustainable and equitable land use in the rural areas, particularly considering economic implications.’

The MP said the provision of secure land rights to local communities will stimulate increased agricultural activities and boost rural economies.

"The economic opportunities stemming from the land rights reform will collectively contribute to a more dynamic and inclusive economy, the confluence of job creation, investment attraction and economic diversification, not only addresses immediate economic incentives but also lays the foundation for sustainable and resilient rural development,” he said.

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