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LAND ISSUE - FACT SHEET
PRE-INDEPENDENCE LEGISLATION ON LAND
Throughout the history of Zimbabwe, land has remained the
most important political and economic issue in the country. This can be traced back to the
time of the Pioneer Column in the late 1800s and the subsequent legal instruments that
were passed and entrenched to ensure division of the ownership of land between the two
major races namely, blacks and whites. The evolution of these legal instruments is as
The Lippert Concession (1889)
This Concession which preceded the actual occupation of
Zimbabwe in 1890 allowed would-be settlers to acquire land rights from the indigenous
people. The act resulted in the British South African Company (BSAC) buying concessions
from the British Monarch which were then used as a basis of land expropriation. The
revenue accrued was repatriated to the United Kingdom and the indigenous peoples, the
owners of the land, got nothing.
The Native Reserves Order in Council (1898)
The order created the infamous Native Reserves for blacks
only. This was in the face of a systematic mass land expropriation by white settlers. To
the whites, the Native Reserves were meant to prevent the extinction of the indigenous
people while at the same time guaranteeing that settlers got the lion's share of
fertile land. The result was that Native Reserves were set up haphazardly in low potential
areas which subsequently became the present Communal areas.
This was a period of conquest and land expropriation. The
BSAC was in the forefront of the occupation of Mashonaland and Matebeleland and the
suppression of the first Chimurenga (National Uprising in 1893). These processes were
accompanied by the seizure of land and cattle. Racial segregation in the use and ownership
of land was introduced at an early stage. By the eve of World War One in 1914, the
apportionment of land was as follows:
Africans 24 000 000 acres
The BSAC 48 000 000 acres
Individual white settlers 13 000 000 acres
Other Private Companies 9 000 000 acres
During this period, the country's population was as
Even by this early period, only 3% of the population
controlled 75% of the economically productive land while 97% were forcefully confined to
23% of the land scattered into a number of reserves.
African population 836 000
Whites 28 000
The Land Apportionment Act (1930)
The main purpose of the act was to formalise separation
by law, land between blacks and whites, and this was after the deliberations and
recommendations of the Morris Carter Commission of 1925. The fertile high rainfall areas
became large scale privately owned white farms. In 1931, the act divided the land area in
the country as follows:
Land classification Acreage
Population distribution was as follows:
Native Reserves 29 000 000 acres
Native Purchase Areas 8 000 000 acres
European areas 49 000 000 acres
Unassigned 6 000 000 acres
Forest 3 000 000 acres
Native Land Husbandry Act (1951)
Africans: 1.1 million
Whites: 50 000
The act meant to enforce private ownership of land,
destocking and conservation practices on black small holders. It met mass resistance and
fueled nationalistic politics. The law was subsequently scrapped in 1961.
The Tribal Trust lands (TTL) act (1965)
The act was devised to change the name of the Native
Reserves and create trustees for the land. High population densities on TTLs made them
Lancaster House Conference: The land Debate.
In the Opening Speech to the Lancaster House
Constitution, the Patriotic Front listed the land question among its nine major issues for
negotiation. During the negotiations, the British government insisted on a stringent
protection of private property with equally restrict provisions for 'prompt' and
'adequate' compensation in the few cases where compulsory was to be allowed. The
Patriotic Front's position was that: every person was to be protected from having his
property compulsorily acquired, subject to the right of government to acquire any property
in the public interest; and compensation for property so acquired would be at the
discretion of the government.
The Patriotic Front objected to the British proposals as
the objective of the struggle in Zimbabwe was the recovery of the land which the people
were dispossessed of. The British provisions converted the freedom from deprivation of
property into a right to retain privileges and perpetuate social and economic injustice.
The Lancaster House Conference nearly broke-down over the
land question. The Patriotic front wanted the British government to provide money to pay
compensation. An agreement was reached and the Patriotic Front announced it as follows:
At independence in 1980, 97% of our population (Africans)
owned only 45 million acres, slightly under half the total area of 96 million acres,
leaving the rest, over half the land area to only 3% of the population (whites). Such
imbalances had to be redressed within the confines of the Lancaster House Constitution.
Britain pledged to fund the resettlement programme to make sure that provisions for
compulsory acquisition without compensation did not go into the Zimbabwean Constitution
generally, and in particular through Section 16 which was designed to give total
protection to private property.
"We have now obtained assurances that Britain, the United States of America and other countries will participate in a
multinational donor effort to assist in land, agricultural and economic development
programmes. These assurances go a long way in allaying the great concern we have over the
whole land question arising from the great need our people have for land and our
commitment to satisfy that need when in government".
Due to a variety of reasons, all of which have their
roots in the Lancaster House Agreement, the resettlement programme did not perform to
expectations. Firstly, under the willing seller/willing buyer principle, land was not
offered in sufficient bulk to the government. Secondly, that which was offered to
government was the poorer quality land in regions of low rainfall patterns and poor
ecological soils. Thirdly, because of the 'fair market price' clause, the
government was greatly constrained and there have not been sufficient funds forthcoming to
buy the land.
In 1980 the Zimbabwe Conference on Reconstruction and
Development (ZIMCORD) conference was held and its stated objective of mobilising support
from the international community was for, inter alia, finance for resettlement.
Participants in the scheme were Britain, West Germany, the United States of America and
others. The aid promised at Lancaster and ZIMCORD was not forthcoming in sufficient
amounts to extinguish land hunger. Thus after seven years of independence only 40 000
families of the original 162 000 families were resettled between 1980 and 1987.
POST INDEPENDENCE LEGISLATION ON LAND.
The nationalist movement and the cry for freedom was,
among other things, born of the need to change the skewed land distribution pattern in the
country. Even during the Lancaster House talks in London in 1979, the land issue was so
cardinal to the independence of Zimbabwe that it was enshrined in the constitution of
independent Zimbabwe. The negotiating parties agreed that there would be no compulsory
acquisition of land but that a willing seller/willing buyer principle would apply
for the first ten years.
The Communal Land Act (1981)
The act was designed to change TTLs into Communal Areas
which resulted in the shift of land authority from traditional leadership to local
The Land Acquisition Act (1985)
This act drawn up in the spirit of the Lancaster House
Agreement of 1979, (willing seller/willing buyer principle) gave government the first
right to purchase large scale farms for resettlement of indigenous people. Largely because
of financial constraints, the act had a limited impact on the resettlement programme.
Land Reform and Resettlement Programme.
The desire to resettle the landless by the Government has
not been fulfilled largely because the government could not acquire land when and where it
desired. Land owners were either unwilling to sell or asked for double or triple the
prices for their land. Because of the willing seller/willing buyer undertaking, government
could only settle 71 000 families out of a targeted 162 000 families between 1980 and
Meanwhile, the level of congestion reached catastrophic
levels. Political pressure for redress mounted, and in some instances, communal farmers
settled themselves unilaterally and haphazardly on commercial farms bordering their areas.
Against this background, the government decided to
compulsorily acquire land for resettlement using the Land Acquisition Act (Chapter 2010).
The act provides for fair compensation for land acquired for resettlement purposes. The
landowner has recourse to court if not agreeable to the price set by the acquiring
The Land Acquisition Act (1992)
This act is a follow-up to the 1985 Act and is meant to
acquire more land for the resettlement of blacks that are in congested marginal rainfall
areas. Implementation of this act is currently underway.
Criteria for Land Acquisition.
The land targeted for acquisition was categorised as
Those who feel that their land should not have been
designated are asked to submit (to government) their written objections (as per the
requirements of the act) within 30 days of the notice to compulsorily acquire being
- derelict land
- under-utilised land
- land owned by absentee-landlords
- land from farmers with more than one farm or with oversized
farms (defined according to what is sustainable under given ecological conditions)
- land adjacent to communal areas.
Donors Conference and the Second Phase of the Land Reform and Resettlement
Programme (LRRP): September 1998.
The International Donors' Conference on Land Reform
and Resettlement Programme in Zimbabwe was held in Harare from 9-11 September, 1998. The
objective of the Conference was to inform the donor community on the land reform and
resettlement programme and to mobilise support for the same. About 48 countries and
international organisations were represented at the Conference.
The donors unanimously endorsed the need for land reform
and resettlement in Zimbabwe and affirmed that the programme was essential for poverty
reduction, economic growth and stability. They also appreciated the political imperative
and urgency of the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme and agreed that the Inception
Phase covering 24 months should start immediately.
A number of donors pledged technical and financial
support for the programme.
Objectives of the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme:
Beneficiaries of the Resettlement Programme:
To reduce the extent and intensity of poverty among
rural families and farm workers by providing them adequate land for agricultural use.
Communal families have contributed a lot to agricultural produce.
To increase the contribution of agriculture to GDP by
increasing the number of commercialised small-scale farmers using formerly underutilised
To promote the environmentally sustainable utilisation of
To increase the conditions for sustainable peace and
social stability by removing imbalances in land ownership
The Government Resettlement Models:
Communal families selected from overpopulated
villages, including ex-farm workers and ex-mine workers.
People with training or certificates in agriculture or a
demonstrated capacity in farming such as Master Farmers and graduates from agricultural
Special groups such as women who constitute 51% of the
Indigenous people intent on making a break-through in
The following are
the proposed resettlement models to be implemented:
MODEL A1 (Villagised)
Each settler is
allocated a residential plot and an individual arable plot, with communally shared grazing
wood-lots and water points.
MODEL A2 (Self-Contained Units)
Each settler is given a
self-contained complete unit with residential, arable and grazing lot.
THREE TIER MODEL
This model is
applicable to the drier parts of the country where ranching is the only sustainable land
use. The land is divided into three tiers as follows:
First Tier: Comprising a cluster of
villages, with some arable plots and space for social services.
Second Tier: Each benefiting
household keeps a limited number of livestock units for day to day use.
Third Tier: This is the main grazing area where the
bulk of the herd is kept for commercial purposes.
Alternative Land Acquisition and Resettlement Approaches.
1. Community participation and implementation
In this model the government acquires the
land, and communities plan and execute their own settlement. They are also responsible for
obtaining the required planning, technical, and managerial assistance from any source they
choose, including government services, NG0s, or the private sector.
Once the government has acquired the land
and has selected and trained the beneficiaries, it disburses the remaining balance of the
uniform public support to the beneficiary community and lets it plan and execute its own
settlement. The balance could be disbursed in tranches, which could be subject to
demonstration of progress in planning (to be kept very simple) and execution of the
2. Private sector approaches
Public support for private
sector-initiated approaches would have the advantage of widening the scope and increasing
the efficiency of the land reform programme by enhancing the commercialisation of
smallholder agriculture, providing land reform beneficiaries with access to the private
sector partner's business infrastructure, knowledge and information, and encouraging
private sector contributions to the programme.
The potential implementing agencies for
the private sector approaches could be: farmers' associations (or their individual members
as sellers or developers), commercial banks (or a group of banks), private sector
developers, labour unions, churches, women's organisations, and other NG0s. As described
above, a potential implementing organisation would first need to have its specific
programme proposal screened and be accredited by the co-ordinating entity. The scheme
could involve an entire farm or any subdivision thereof.
The total costs (land transactions and
development costs) would be financed by the uniform public support and a loan from a
private bank, as well as by own equity contributions in cash, kind or labour, and any
other private contributions the seller or the beneficiaries may be able to mobilise.
Once the settlement project is developed,
it is presented to the bank for financing, either in the form of a group loan, individual
loan, or a combination of the two. The disbursement of the public support to the seller of
the land, agents, developers, or beneficiaries could be handled by the same bank which
provides the loan.
The actual loan terms would be defined by
the financial intermediary (bank). The interest rate would be the going market rate for
long-term real estate loans as defined by the financial intermediary. A grace period could
be granted, two or three years perhaps, and the full term could be around ten or fifteen
The private sector approach can have many
1. individual homesteads with garden;
2. communities who hold land as a
condominium or under communal tenure;
3. contract farming with the former owner
or another commercial farmer or estate;
4. an irrigated model with market
gardening for communities made up of female-headed households; families willing to adopt
up orphans; or squatters; and
5. equity participation schemes
with the former or a new owner of a commercial farm.
This model has many similarities to model
1 and 2, but it differs from them in that the community is in the driver seat for all
decisions, while the implementing organisation only has enabling, supervisory, and
disbursement functions. Most importantly, communities not only plan and execute their own
settlement, but also search for the land they want to purchase and negotiate the price
with the seller.
Implementing agencies for this model may
be local governments, the Community Action Fund, or a private entity such as a bank or a
consortium of banks.
In all other respects the community land
purchase model is executed like a combination of the community participation and execution
model, and the private sector models. All variants of the latter could be considered as
options by the land purchasing community.
The Government of Zimbabwe estimates that the total cost
of the land reform and resettlement programme is US$1.1 billion. This will cover costs of;
land acquisition and development.
Infrastructure and services (roads, water, first crop
tillage, schools and clinics).
Farmer support and credit facilities.