By Hama Saburi
President Robert Mugabe issued a proclamation early last month, appointing a commission of inquiry to probe the sale of State land in and around urban areas.
The commission, which is led by Justice Tendai Uchena and whose other members include Andrew Mlalazi, Steven Chakaipa, Tarisai Mutangi, Heather Chingono, Vimbai Nyemba and Petronella Musarurwa must confine itself to land acquired and allocated to the ministry of Local Government for urban development since 2005.
The ministry is currently led by Saviour Kasukuwere, who inherited it from Ignatius Chombo who had the distinction of being the longest serving Local Government minister between 2000 and 2015.
Zimbabweans are watching with bated breath to see how the two ministers have handled the sale of State land at the different intervals.
All developed cities have done exceedingly well in the proper allocation and management of State land in and around their metropolis. This needs special emphasis!
In the case of Zimbabwe, the management of this resource has been disastrous, if not criminal. This might actually be an understatement.
Unplanned settlements have emerged everywhere like mushroom. Semi-natural habitats such as arable fields, pastures, wetlands and managed woods have been destroyed, with culprits hiding under the political shield.
Zimbabwe has been dogged by endless problems in the allocation of land, especially for residential purposes with home seekers losing their hard-earned income to land barons who are causing havoc across municipalities.
As the rich get richer through the illegal sale of State land which they get for next to nothing, the poor are getting poorer, with their anger being directed at government for failing to protect them from land barons who are doing their thing with impunity.
The establishment of the inquiry might therefore help nail the untouchables and bring them to book so that justice can be served.
It may also enable those who have lost money through illegal stand sales to get compensation.
The commission’s mandate has been given as that of investigating methods of acquisition and or allocation by current occupants and owners of such land, and to investigate and ascertain the actors involved in allocations, occupation and use of such land.
The commission is expected to report its findings in writing to Mugabe.
On paper, this is all good.
In reality, we have seen commissions set up in the past producing voluminous reports and findings that were never taken up or implemented half-heartedly.
In July 2015, Mugabe established a nine-member commission of inquiry headed by retired judge, Justice George Smith, to probe the conversion process used to convert pensions and insurance benefits following dollarisation in 2009.
Up to this day, very few know what has become of that report.
In December 1988, a commission led by Justice Wilson Sandura was put in place to investigate allegations of the resale of cars brought at controlled prices from the State-run Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries for resale at grossly inflated prices.
A provincial governor and five ministers in Mugabe’s Cabinet resigned when they were implicated in the scandal. But while Mugabe allowed the wheels of justice to take course when the findings were made available to him, he then defeated the effort by pardoning some of those implicated.
Then, came the mother of all scandals in the early 1990s when another inquiry had to be established to investigate the looting of the war victims compensation fund through the exaggeration of injuries. Despite the excellent work of the commission, none of the culprits was brought to book.
The inertia in walking the talk when confronted with findings extends even to harmless findings of commissions such as the Nziramasanga Commission of the late 1990s on the discontinuation of Grade 7 and ‘‘O’’ Level examinations.
The report was submitted to Mugabe in 1999 and it took the arrival of Lazarus Dokora at the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to implement its findings about 18 years later, at which point some of the findings had been overtaken by events.
It is against this background that we doubt if the Justice Uchena Commission would be any different.
In the event that theirs defy the odds, we may as well urge Mugabe to establish more commissions to find what has happened to our diamonds in Marange, the unbridled looting of State-owned parastatals and many other economic atrocities of our time. Daily News