Cathy Buckle’s Letter from Zimbabwe: Another land grab inevitable.

I am a Zimbabwean with white skin. I was born, raised, educated and am permanently resident here. For the last twelve years I have been without constitutional rights because I am a white Zimbabwean who also became a farmer a decade after Independence. No Section 5,7, or 8 acquisition notices were ever served on the farm and the mob who seized it never had any offer letters or other documentation to back up their seizure.

The farm was not an inherited family property, but was purchased on the open market in 1990, ten years after Independence, with the approval of the Zimbabwe government and their Certificate of No Interest. No compensation has been paid for this farm or any of the buildings and improvements on it since it was grabbed.

In his book “At the Deep End” Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai explains better than most why the farms of white Zimbabweans were seized. “His [Mugabe’s] main motive was not black empowerment (except to feather the nests of the ruling elite). It was not even revenge against whites. One of the primary aims was to deal with the farm worker threat to Zanu PF in elections.”

With these words in mind I tried to establish if my rights have been restored in the draft new constitution .The section on citizenship asserts that because I was born in the country I am a citizen. The draft states that Zimbabwe is founded on respect for values and principles which include: fundamental human rights and freedoms; recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of each human being, and recognition of the equality of all human beings. (Chapter 1: 3 (c), (e) and (f))

Chapter 4, section 13 of the draft constitution asserts that I may not be discriminated against. Subsection (3) states that I have the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on the grounds of my nationality, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, language, sex, gender, marital status or age. Subsection 14 of chapter 4 says that I have the right to privacy and that this includes the right: “not to have their possessions seized.”(c)

It is encouraging that I have constitutional backing asserting that I am a citizen with fundamental rights, freedoms, dignity and equality and may not be discriminated against on the grounds of my sex, colour, race or origin and have the right not to have my property seized.

Then come the contradictions. All the rights accorded to me thus far in the new draft are taken away in Chapter 4 section 29 which states: “Where agricultural land, or any right or interest in such land, is compulsorily acquired (c) the acquisition may not be challenged on the ground that it was discriminatory in contravention of section 4.13.”

Despite widespread condemnation of the amendment to our existing constitution relating to the responsibility for paying compensation, nothing has changed in the new draft. Section 4.29.8(i) says that the former colonial power has an obligation to pay for land compulsorily acquired. This is despite the fact that farmers like me did not buy their farms from the former colonial power but from the Independent Government of Zimbabwe. Section 4.29.8.(ii) says that if the former colonial power won’t compensate me for the land it took ten years to pay for, the Zimbabwe Government has no obligation to pay me either.

For anyone currently on a farm, the most frightening clause in the draft is section 16.4 which gives rights of continued occupation to people on those farms at the time the new constitution takes effect. Another national land grab frenzy seems inevitable

Cathy Buckle.  Daily News column published 25.7.12

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