By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti and Norton legislator Temba Mliswa have told President Emmerson Mnangagwa to amend the constitution for his administration to be able to seize idle land from black people for redistribution to white Zimbabweans.
Last week, government introduced the Statutory Instrument (SI) 62 of 2020 and gave Mnangagwa powers to give land back to the whites.
Debating on Wednesday in the National Assembly, Mliswa said it was against the country’s Constitution that government would reverse the land reform program without amending the constitution.
He told the deputy Agriculture minister Vangelis Peter Haritatos, that the land was protected under Bilateral Investment Promotion Protection Agreements (Bippas).
“Is it not inconsistent with the laws of this country, especially Section 72. It reads: ‘Section 72 (4) (a) talks about all agricultural land which was itemised in schedule 7 to the former Constitution or (b) before the effective date was identified in terms of Section 16 (b) (2) (a) cannot be taken’.
“What I am trying to say is, if the mihûhhunister intends to give back Bippa farms, the Constitution has to be amended,” Mliswa said.
Haritatos however said, if the land was being utilised or government feels it is impossible to give back that piece of land that is when it will go the compensation route.
He added government was not going to uproot people unnecessarily.
Mliswa further asked if government was shifting the land reform policy because it took away indigenisation.
“Have you shifted policy because you took away indigenisation from the blacks and you have given it to foreigners? Has Government shifted their policy of giving land back to the whites, yes or no?” the MP demanded.
The Harare East MP, Biti put leader of the National Assembly, Ziyambi Ziyambi to task and said the intention of S.I. 62 of 2020 was to allow the government to take back the land it had already given in terms of the land reform programme to its original owners.
He added that the government had to amend the constitution in order to take back the land.
“However, there are two problems. Land only belongs to the State by virtue of Constitutional Amendment No. 17 of 2005 and was put in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution. So, in order to take land that was gazetted and give it back to someone, you actually need a constitutional amendment.
“Government put in place a new S.I. 62 which states that those white farmers who had their land repossessed are being given back the land. This is a reversal of the land reform programme, so it must be clear whether there is change in government policy regarding the repossessing of land? How does this happen without amending the Constitution of the land?” Biti asked.
The MDC MPs broke into songs calling ZANU PF “sellouts”.
Responding to Biti, Ziyambi said there were some black people who lost their farms through the land reform programme and have not been compensated, hence the particular Statutory Instrument was trying to give effect or to kick-start the process of having that compensation, to set it in motion.
“Pursuant to that, we have not been doing that. We have black people who lost their farms through the land reform programme, there was no compensation. This particular Statutory Instrument is trying to give effect or to kick-start the process of having that compensation, to set it in motion.
“Secondly, we have those that are protected by Bippas. They are also covered in the Constitution in terms of Section 295 (ii). What has been happening is that because it is in our Constitution, where we were taken to arbitration we have lost dismally.
“So the Statutory Instrument is trying to say that where the land is lying idle, the best possible thing is to give them the land because it is protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion Protection Agreement but where it is not possible, we then discuss the possibility of compensating for both the land and the improvements — that is the net effect of that Statutory Instrument,” Ziyambi said.
Nevertheless, Biti insisted that the issue of compensation on improvements did not need a Statutory Instrument because it is in the Constitution, otherwise it needed an amendment of constitution.
“What you are doing, which you cannot do, is to take away that land because the land is covered in the Seventh Schedule which is part of the Constitution.
“So if you are going to take away anything that is already in the Constitution, then you have to amend the Constitution,” he said.
Since 2000 the land reform program faced years of controversy of the violent manner it was conducted and the rewarding of Zanu PF cronies at the expense of competent farmers. Nehanda Radio