• 4 Mar, 2024
  • United Zimbabwe Alliance

Access to Land and Minerals

In Zimbabwe, the issue of access to land and minerals has become a battleground where the rights of ordinary citizens are being trampled upon, while the privileged few reap the benefits. The plight of countless individuals facing forced evictions from their ancestral lands, the exploitation of mineral resources by foreign nationals and politically connected persons and the rampant corruption affecting access to home stands underscores an urgent need for reform and justice.

On Access to Land and Property Rights in Zimbabwe
Forced evictions from communal land are one of the many scourges on the reputation of the current political administration. Our view is that these evictions are an arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional deprivation of land. They are contrary to the provisions of section 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe which outlaws arbitrary evictions. It is deeply problematic that the descendants of people that were relegated to the so called “reserves” by the colonial regime in terms of the draconian land laws of the colonial period still face the same issues of access to land today. The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 prevented black people from purchasing and owning land outside the designated Native Purchase Areas. The  Land Tenure Act of 1969 continued with the same draconian laws that restricted black Africans from ownership of prime land and restricted black people to Tribal Trust Lands (previously known as native reserves).

It is patently ironic that the basic questions that the ordinary people in Zimbabwe have had for decades under the colonial regime continue to remain unanswered four decades into the post-independence era that is governed by Zanu Pf. Ordinary Zimbabweans, whose predecessors were forced into unproductive lands and reserves/Tribal Trust Lands, still have zero security of land tenure and face the possibility of eviction from the same crowded land that they were forced into. At the heart of this issue is security and ownership.

In our common law, or the Roman Dutch law, ownership is described as the most comprehensive real right that a person can possess over a thing. It is often described as a ‘real right that can be claimed against the whole world.’ Ownership, or dominium, is therefore a fundamental right that is exercisable to the extent allowed by law and in so far as it doesn’t affect the rights of others. Yet, our people have zero ownership over the land that they and their predecessors have lived on for decades, and in some cases, for centuries. That explains why they can be evicted from the land at a whim and without recourse or compensation. Even the few that have obtained land under the land reform programme only have leasehold rights, which are limited real rights that are not as fundamental and the real right of ownership. Under UZA, the rights of our people to the land that they live on, especially communal land will be treated as sacrosanct and only subject to alienation for a good cause and subject to mutually agreeable compensation. The days of our people being held politically hostage, with a constant need to be on the correct political side lest their land is taken away by a vicious political class will be truly and firmly over.

As UZA, we see beyond the dominion of communal land as a basic human right and take a step further and believe that securing title to land will unlock exponential growth opportunities. The current model where our people exist on land that they have zero title over is untenable. According to Hernando de Soto in his seminal work, The Mystery of Capital, many of the poor people in the third world somehow have access to the assets that they need to develop, but they do not have titles. He states that “farms have crops, but no deeds.” He also states, quite revealingly for our context as Zimbabwe:

For instance, in the US, the biggest source of finance for entrepreneurs is a mortgage on their home. Well documented assets like houses demonstrate a credit history and link individuals to the wider economy. Having a mortgage or possessing a formal interest in a company makes people part of a system with all its rights. When ownership cannot be clearly demonstrated, in contrast, an asset is dead capital because it cannot generate more capital through being securitized or collateralized.

De Soto further states that in developing countries, a substantial portion of rural land is dead capital because the land has not been formalised. It is still held in primitive structures that lock away economic development opportunities. As UZA, we will work towards creating ownership for land that will not only eliminate the ever-present threat of eviction on narrow political or other whims, but create an avenue for rural economic development that is currently being blocked by nothing more than primitive ideology. Zimbabwe will experience the land revolution that Zanu Pf has failed to initiate, and that will, at long last, permanently do away with all the land injustice that the colonial land laws imposed on our people.

On Access to Mineral Resources
Compounding the access to land issue is the exploitation of Zimbabwe's abundant mineral resources by foreign nations and elite insiders. The governing law that applies to mining and mineral rights in Zimbabwe is the Mines and Minerals Act Chapter 21:05. Section 2 of this Act states that: the dominium in and the right of searching and mining for and disposing of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gases, notwithstanding the dominium or right which any person may possess in and to the soil on or under which such minerals, mineral oils and natural gases are found or situated, is vested in the President.

This means that the President has dominion over the mineral wealth of the country. The vesting of this authority needs to be exercised with responsibility and consideration of the highest order, and must not be abused. Multiple reports in the media in the past few years contain allegations that mining prospectors, a lot of them foreign nationals, have intimidated thousands of holders of communal lands with so called letters from the office of the President granting them the right to prospect for minerals despite the rights of the people living on the communal land in question. An UZA led government will ensure that the presidential dominium established by section 2 of the Mines and Minerals Act will be exercised with the requisite duty of care and responsibility towards the people of Zimbabwe.

As UZA, we will also ensure that the rights to access the mineral wealth of the country will be realised in full. Section 20(1) of the Mines and Minerals Act states that; any person who is a permanent resident of Zimbabwe or any duly appointed agent of such person may take out at the office of any mining commissioner one or more prospecting licenses on payment of the appropriate fee prescribed in respect of each such license.

In terms of section 24 of the same Act, a person who obtains a prospecting license as contemplated in section 20(1) referred to above must be over the age of 18 years. An UZA government will ensure that the legislation that establishes the right to get mining prospecting licenses will be exercised by ALL willing Zimbabweans who are above the minimum age without prejudice against any perceived opponents of the government or favour to any UZA party members. This will ensure that the ground for the contestation of mining rights in Zimbabwe is even.

Over and above a fair and equitable rights allocation regime, UZA will comprehensively review the taxation and royalties regime that is applicable to mining companies and operations in the country. Taxation is the basis of state revenue and in the context of mining, taxation is a fundamental instrument that ensures the distribution of revenue from profits that are obtained by miners in the country to the rest of the population that may not have an interest in mining. In this regard, tax revenue raised from mining operations will be used to finance public expenditure by the state. It does not take a rocket scientist to determine that the mining tax regime in the country is highly problematic with limited enforcement of the country’s tax laws by an under-resourced and demotivated Zimbabwe Revenue Agency (ZIMRA). As it stands, the informal mining sector that is led by the famous “makorokoza” and infamous “mashurugwi” continues to operate in the dark with predictably no accountability on the tax front. As UZA, we will have a clear policy on the mining tax regime that will apply to artisanal miners. We will also enforce the tax laws in respect of major mining operations to ensure that there are no revenue leakages due to the underreporting of mineral exports and transfer pricing manipulation. UZA will also aggressively promote mineral beneficiation in Zimbabwe to eliminate the exportation of raw minerals at low prices that effectively shift our mineral profits to other countries.

One of the most pressing concerns facing Zimbabweans today is the alarming rate of forced evictions from communal/ancestral lands to make way for mineral prospecting and activities. Section 31(1)(a) of the Mines and Minerals Act defines “ground that is not open to prospecting” and states that prospecting rights shall not be exercisable: upon any holding of private land except with the consent in writing of the owner or of some person duly authorized thereto by the owner or, in the case of a portion of Communal Land, by the occupier of such portion, or upon any State land except with the consent in writing of the President or of some person duly authorized thereto by the President.

This clearly indicates that the consent of the occupier of the land, communal land included, is required IF the prospecting is within a certain distance from the occupier’s home and land under cultivation etc. Where such consent has not been given, section 31(1)(g)(iii) provides that: where any consent in terms of this paragraph is unreasonably withheld, the Minister may authorize any person to exercise his rights under any prospecting license or any special grant to carry, out prospecting operations or any exclusive prospecting order on such land, subject to such conditions as the Minister may impose. This shows that the Minister responsible for mines in Zimbabwe has a discretion to override the refusal of a land occupier for prospecting rights to be exercised within a certain distance of their land. If the said Minister is not diligent and fails to apply his mind with the constitutional rights of the land occupiers in mind, he/she may carelessly cause the annihilation of the land occupier’s rights. As UZA, we will approach the ministerial powers in section 31(1)(g)(iii) with great application in order to ensure that the rights of all parties are respected. The current helter-skelter environment where the rights of land occupiers are almost automatically disregarded in favour of the rights of prospectors will not exist under a UZA government. We will be guided by section 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe which states that “no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of the court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.” We will also balance the rights of land occupiers with those of the rights of the prospectors by reference to section 73 of the Constitution which states as follows:

Every person has the right:

  1. To an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being; and

  2. To have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative measures that

    1. Prevent pollution and ecological degradation

    2. Promote conservation

    3. Secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting economic and social development.

In light of the issues raised above, it is imperative that meaningful and economically decisive steps are taken to address the systemic injustices that plague Zimbabwe's land and mineral sectors. This includes implementing comprehensive land reform and ownership policies that prioritise the rights of indigenous communities to property rights as enshrined in section 71 of the Constitution and ensure equitable and actionable access to land resources. Additionally, measures must be put in place to regulate the extraction and distribution of mineral wealth, ensuring that local communities benefit from their natural resources.

Visit the United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA), online at:
unitedzimbabwe.org or email : info@unitedzimbabwe.org