OpinionTop Stories

Sir Colin Reflections on Property rights


By Colin Nyangani

What I do know is that history returned that day with a vengeance; that, in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried-it isn’t even past.

The primary Municipal Law of 1897 conceded city status to Salisbury
(now Harare) and Bulawayo with entirely chose chamber. The urban local government was creating in the hands of Europeans ignoring the Indigenous blacks from urban administration. Ensuing requests, enactments and Commissions dug in white seizure of African land until the 1930 Land Apportionment Act.
The history of formal local government in Zimbabwe is traced from the arrival of the British
South Africa Company (BSAC) in 1890. In reality, the idea of Land Apportionment Act of 1930 has underpinned 90 years of colonial hangover, confusion and living under false pretenses that we own the land in present Zimbabwe and yet the opposite is true; the land belongs to the British South Africa Company which is seconded by our current pieces of legislation.
What’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the
smallness of our politics and the lawmaking processes. The strategy of racial isolation commanded political, financial, and social circles and was upheld by enactment, for example, the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and the Land Tenure Act of 1931 which
differentiated land as being European or African. The urban, mining and prime cultivating country ranges were assigned for Europeans.
The Indigenous blacks possessed the more peripheral Tribal Trust Lands (TTL), later renamed as Communal Lands.
A 1953 record from the Government of Southern Rhodesia, characterized the premise of neighborhood government as “a honest to goodness group or its creation. . . what’s more, [that] no meaning of local government is more suited or direly required in Africa than that of a group building organization” (Government of Southern Rhodesia, 1953).
This offered space to a legislature
supported near study that encouraged a level headed discussion on local government.
The Southern Rhodesian Government likewise looked to maintain a strategic distance from reliance of Indigenous blacks on central government and forewarned against spoon-encouraging as takes after: “The genuine risk of reproducing a types of sub-monetary man . . . unmindful of basic duties and viewing government as a limitless wellspring of advantages . . . the issue requires a reconsideration of the present framework with a view to relegating a clear circle of fund and self-improvement to African local government” (Government of Southern Rhodesia, 1953).

Business ranches, mines and little urban focuses under the 1966 Rural Councils Act were under the supervision of the Europeans.
Amid the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) period from 1965 to 1979, country territories were directed by the halfway selected chiefs that were portrayed by legitimate and domineering forces who decided guidelines overseeing exercises, for example, the land
utilize and assess accumulation. The rationale was that of central control instead of local improvement.
The order of Municipal Act of 1930 and the Urban Councils Act of 1973 acquired a few changes in urban local government.
In enormous urban local authorities Harare and Bulawayo, they made various nearby Town Management Boards (TMBs). From the 1930s through to freedom, more local government administrative and arrangement changes were seen.
Indigenous blacks experiences of segregationist landscapes in urban areas, and state control of Indigenous blacks housing as contributed to the shaping of community action.
Rural and urban Indigenous blacks social history was characterised by under-provision of services, political exclusion, and socio-economic ill-treatment, with local government literally reduced to an instrument of the central government.

Our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working
consensus to tackle any big problem like this one of Property rights.Not to want to debate Urban Councils Act (CAP 29:15) section 154 (Conditions of Title to Land Transferred by Municipal Council)of 1993 as amended in the following order 1995/1997/2001 and the Regional, Town and Country Act (CAP 29:12), without to discuss and deal with the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 that has been so impactful reveals a palpable lack of interest in the reading culture of us Indigenous black people of Zimbabwe especially on laws governing our land and tantamount to intergenerational cycles of poverty.

The ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial makes us linger in the doldrums of Intergenerational cycles of poverty. Without putting lipstick on frog and deciding to call a spade not a big spoon, this article highlights serious deriliction of duty by our lawmakers and the electorate whether by design or default; our very own Urban Councils Act (CAP 29:15) of 1993/1995/1997/ 2001/2005/2015 particularly section 154 subtitled (Conditions of title to land transferred by municipal council) doctored like terms and conditions in most of our fast moving consumer goods contracts.
I realized, too, that a set of unique circumstances had underwritten the stability of the
governing consensus of which we had been a part: not just the shared experiences of the
Lobengula signature, but also the near unanimity forged by the British South Africa Company’s threat
If meanings are in people and English is my second language; readers are privy to correct, compare and contrast all the superceded Urban Councils Acts and the current Urban Councils Act (CAP 29:15)1993/1995/
1997/ 2001/2005 particularly section 154 subtitled (Conditions of title to land transferred by municipal council) which reads as follows and I quote;
“In the case of land granted to a municipality in trust for the inhabitants of the municipality, such area being known as municipal township land, which was granted subject to the conditions that
(a) the British South Africa Company or the Governor of Southern Rhodesia shall have the right to resume ownership of and to retake possession of the said land or any portion thereof on payment of such compensation as may be mutually agreed upon or, failing such agreement, as may be determined by arbitration; and
(b) the right to all minerals in or the power to make grants of the right to prospect for minerals on that land was reserved, either to the British South Africa Company or the Governor of Southern Rhodesia;
any such land which is or has been transferred, whether before or after the date of commencement of this Act, by the municipality or by any successor in title to the municipality shall be deemed to have been transferred and shall be held, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other law, subject to the conditions referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) which were applicable to the municipal township land concerned, save that any reference to the British South Africa Company or the Government shall be construed as a reference to the President, and subject to any other conditions that may have been imposed by the municipality or any subsequent owner of the land.

As I was digging deeper into these serious matters I came across a letter from AC Jennings (the then Assistant Director of Native Lands) who wrote to Honourable Godfrey Huggins the then Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and I quote ” The progress so far achieved in Administering the Land Apportionment Act is sufficiently promising to lead one to believe the Natives will not Develop to the fullest extent the land available to them, both in the Native reserves and Native Area, but they will gradually obtain a fuller appreciation that these areas lie the fullest scope for their advancement and well being”.

This is proof that various pieces of legislation were enacted during the colonial hegemony (1890 to 1980), the major ones being the notorious Land Apportionment Act, 1930 (formed from the recommendations of the Morris Carter Commission ‘s opinion on land segregation issues leading to the setting aside of 51% of the land in the country for European settlers with Indigenous blacks being prohibited from holding or occupying land in the European areas), the Native Land Husbandry Act, 1951 and the Land Tenure Act 1969.
These to a greater extent have shaped the rural cape of the country, and upon the attainment of independence in 1980, the drive was towards the establishment of rural growth points which were assumed through trickle down effects, would induce some rural industrial development which in the long run would develop the entire rural areas, these ideas were borrowed from the Territorial Production Function (TPC), or Perrouxian Growth Model coined by the French economist François Perroux (1950).
Information was triangulated in order to increase the exactness of discoveries and in addition to build legitimacy and unwavering quality of the discoveries.
Evidence of realities, events and circumstances were acquired through information accumulation and I have enlisted three successive pieces of legislation for your perusal;
Land Acquisition Act of 1985
Though drawn in the spirit of the 1979 Lancaster House “willing seller, willing buyer” clause (which could not be changed for 10 years), the Act gave the government the first right to purchase excess land for redistribution to the landless.
The Act, however, had a limited impact largely because the government did not have the money to pay compensation to landowners. In addition, white farmers mounted a vigorous opposition to the Act. Because of the “willing seller, willing
buyer” clause, the government was powerless in the face of the farmers’ resistance. As a result, between 1980 and 1990 only 71,000 families out of a target of 162,000 were resettled.

Land Acquisition Act of 1992
The Act was enacted to speed up the land reform process by removing the “willing seller, willing buyer” clause. The Act empowered the government to buy land compulsorily for redistribution, and a fair compensation was to be paid for land acquired. Landowners were given the right to go to court if they did not agree to the price set by the acquiring authority. Opposition by landowners increased throughout the period 1992 to 1997.

Constitution Amendment Number 17 of 2005
A constitutional amendment, signed into law 12 September 2005, that nationalized Zimbabwe’s farmland and deprived landowners of the right to challenge in courts the government’s decision to expropriate their land, additionally the courts were ordered not to entertain such cases. The former landowners would only challenge the amount payable in terms of compensation on farm improvements.
The Zimbabwean urbanscape is largely controlled by the Regional Town and Country Planning Act, Chapter 29:12, which again is highly criticised for its rigidity and sluggishness to respond to forces of globalisation and urbanisation challenges particularly those highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’S).

This was the basis for subsequent Acts and continued in effect , allocated the land of the colony between areas where only Europeans could own property, areas which were held in trust for Indigenous blacks tribes on a collective basis and areas where only Indigenous blacks person’s could own property.

One practical effect of the apportionment was that some Indigenous blacks were ejected from land they had worked for generations.
The anger this caused had a profound impact on the politics of Zimbabwe in the post-Independence period.

I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in
favor of those people who are struggling in this society.
After all, if we fail to review and address all inherited colonial policies and laws, we diminish ourselves and leave poverty as a legacy for the future generations. This collective history, this past, directly touches my own.

Authored by: Colin S. Nyangani (SirColin)
Community Development Consultant

@ SirColin Personal Mastery


Tendai Guvamombe