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Draft New Customary Land Act, Govt Urged

A report by the Institute for Poverty Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) and the University of Western Cape on the formalisation of customary land has called for the drafting of a new Customary Land Act to balance the power of families living on customary land.

The report titled ‘Securing land tenure or women and men living on customary land in Zimbabwe’ was investigating the impact of formalisation of customary land on tenure relations and livelihoods for people living in rural Zimbabwe.

The report called for the enactment of laws that recognizes social set ups within different communities.

“Draft a new Customary Land Act that shifts the balance of power to families living on customary land because the current Communal Land Act of 1982 vests too much power and authority over land in the Minister (Section 10), Rural District Councils and the President. Ensure through the new Customary Land Act that within families, women – in their differentiated nature – should have secure rights legally equivalent to those of men in ‘ownership’ of residential and arable land along with clearly defined access rights to natural resources held in common. This can be complemented through strengthening Family Law and gender policies.

“Ensure that the new Customary Act legally recognize socially legitimate existing traditional occupation and good faith occupation by individuals (women and men), families and local communities who have been using the land for a period of at least ten years. In such regard, attention must be paid to gender inequality, insecurity of widows, divorcees and single women. Introduce the Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). FPIC is an international principle that gives people (women and men) the right to say yes or no (consent) to developmental projects, therefore upholding the universal right to self-determination,” reads the report.

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The report further recommended that Government departments should be reformed to adequately deal with land related conflicts.

“Amend the Traditional Leaders Act [Chapter 29:17] of 1998 to make the customary institutions of land governance more democratic, accountable and gender-equal, as well as for it to enshrine the principle of consent. Reform agencies of government and state institutions, especially local municipalities and the police, so as to improve their professionalism, legitimacy, integrity and capacity to always uphold the rule of law when dealing with citizens (women and men) over rising emotive land conflicts.

 Align all land-related laws and policies with the constitution which is the supreme law of Zimbabwe especially the clauses that prohibit arbitrary eviction of land users, promote gender-equal ownership and governance of land and promote women’s rights and in particular Section 80(3) which reads that ‘All laws, customs, traditions and cultural practices that infringe the rights of women conferred by this Constitution are void to the extent of the infringement.

 Provide greater access to justice for women through effective, affordable and accessible means. Alternative dispute-resolution mechanisms should be made easily available to address rising land tenure conflicts and promote social cohesion. Adopt an alternative path to rural development centred on non-partisan public investments that prioritise women in rural agriculture,” further reads the report.

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