Prominent Zimbabwe opposition politician Nelson Chamisa has described the Communal Lands Act as draconian and colonial and demanded that the law should be amended as a matter of urgency.

The Communal Lands Act gives rural communities the right to occupy and use communal land but the ownership is vested in the President.

Posting on X this Monday, 19 February, Chamisa said it is sad that millions of Zimbabweans have no title to the land they are occupying. He wrote:

The communal lands act is draconian and colonial. Most Zimbabweans are just occupiers of the land, not its owners. Ownership is more than occupation. This sad situation must be addressed immediately.

No citizen should endure the heartache of losing their home. It’s unjust for the state to overlook years of investment in building a home, only to demolish it later.

Land belongs to everyone. Dignity is an inalienable right and every citizen’s God-given and hereditary entitlement. Land is a gift from God.

This comes as the Government has launched an operation dubbed “No To Land Barons and Illegal Settlements on Land” which has resulted in the arrest of hundreds of villagers for allegedly occupying rural State land without lawful authority. Said Chamisa:

The recent displacements and destruction of property run foul of the law and violate several provisions of the Constitution, including:

a) Section 71 – Property Rights… b) Section 68 – Administrative Justice… c) Section 51 – Dignity… d) Section 74 – Freedom from Arbitrary Eviction

The law governing communal land “erroneously” vests all land in the President. The Minister has other powers delegated to him regarding communal displacements.

The law allows the President to make declarations that affect the rights and interests of citizens living in communal land.

The President can declare that it is no longer communal land. He is under no obligation to consult the citizens, to consider their interests or to account to them.

This must and will change. Citizens must be empowered to have a say in matters affecting them through land displacements.

The provisions for compensation when communal land is set aside or when the President makes a declaration which removes the citizens from communal lands are grossly inadequate and inconsistent with the right to property provided for in the constitution.

Chamisa said the following measures to be adopted by the authorities to protect the rights of rural people:

-Issuing Title Deeds: Securing title deeds provides citizens with legal protection and ensures their land is their security. Title deeds to resettled farmers and communal lands.

-Reviewing the Communal Lands Act: We must reassess outdated legislation to protect citizens’ land rights and prevent unjust and unmerited displacement.

-Establishing an Accessible Land Registry Database: A transparent database ensures fair and equitable land ownership, free from manipulation or corruption.

-Depoliticizing Land Allocation: Land ownership is a fundamental right, accessible to all without bias or partisan political influence.

-Introducing land use planning and utilization model and mechanism overseen by designated district planner on behalf of the government.

-No abuse of state power on land.

-Protecting Communities from Homelessness: Displacement should involve community consultations, with stakeholders adequately rehomed and compensated.

-Whereas Investment is key and welcome, Investors must not just come to extract and go. Communities must be the anchor and key beneficiaries out of any investment in their area. Local authorities, local leadership and communities must be part of any investment negotiation.

-In circumstances where people have settled on a particular land and have been in occupation for a couple of years, authorities must have the moral duty to consider regularization as a first option. The current evictions where helpless households are given 48-hour eviction orders are both unacceptable, cruel, heartless and inhumane.

Chamisa said land tenure and title are matters of national interest and development and are therefore above partisan politics.