Discrimination & land grabs enshrined in new constitution

Ben Freeth  heads the pressure group SADC Tribunal Rights Watch

By Alex Bell
30 January 2013

The new constitution, that is set to be ‘adopted’ on Thursday by the parliamentary team responsible for it, is facing serious criticism for enshrining into law discrimination and illegal land seizures.

The COPAC team, which spent years fighting over the document, have indicated they will on Thursday officially ‘adopt’ the new draft that was finalised by the government’s political leaders. The document has already been formally approved by all parties in the coalition government, but still needs to be given the nod by Parliament before it is put forward for a public referendum.

But while talk turns to potential dates for a referendum and the election that will ultimately follow, there is little debate about the actual contents of the new charter, which critics say is fundamentally flawed. Already, some quarters of Zimbabwean society are campaigning for a ‘no’ vote for the document, mainly because it is the result of a negotiated political process and not the will of the people.

A key concern is the fact that discrimination has been enshrined in the draft, despite this being contrary to the basic human rights the charter is supposed to protect.

Chapter 56, section 5 states: “Discrimination on any of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair, reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.”

Ben Freeth, the former Chegutu farmer who is now heads the pressure group SADC Tribunal Rights Watch, said this week that discrimination has been written into law to support the government’s ongoing campaign of land seizures.

He told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that such “totalitarian control that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,” has already been seen in Zimbabwe for many years. But he questioned why it has now been written into law. He said this move makes sense when further into the document you read a subsection on Property Rights that states: “the acquisition (of land) may not be challenged on the ground that it was discriminatory in contravention of section 56.”

Chapter 72 in the constitution enshrines the right of the state to seize land, stating that all agricultural land, including forestry land, conservation land and horticultural land, among others, may be “acquired” by the State for “public purpose.” Section 2 states: “the land, right or interest may be acquired by the State by notice published in the Gazette identifying the land, right or interest, whereupon the land, right or interest vests in the State with full title with effect from the date of publication of the notice.”

These takeovers will also be done without compensation, according to the new charter, and compensation issues cannot be challenged in the courts.

The draft constitution also upholds the standards of the old charter by insisting that Britain is responsible for compensation for the land seized as part of the land grab. The draft states that “the former colonial power has an obligation to pay compensation for agricultural land,” and if this fails to happen “the Government of Zimbabwe has no obligation.”

This provision flies in the face of international rulings, including from the SADC Tribunal and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, which have both ordered Zimbabwe’s government to pay compensation for seized farms. Zimbabwe’s new charter however makes the legal provision for these rulings to be ignored.

Freeth said these ‘bad’ and unfair laws that do not entrench property rights have serious consequences for Zimbabwe’s future.

“When the government isn’t there to protect property rights, when the constitution isn’t protecting property rights and the law is stacked up against us in terms of protecting our property, then there are huge consequences. There will be an impact on the economy, on the wellbeing of the people, on the future develop of the country and it is something very serious.”

Freeth warned that without property rights, Zimbabwe cannot grow, cannot encourage investment and cannot progress. He said for these reasons, “anyone who does endorse it (the constitution) is actually betraying the future generation of children in Zimbabwe.”

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20 Responsesto “Discrimination & land grabs enshrined in new constitution”

  1. wilbert_mukori says:

    There so many things that are so offensive to good governance and human
    dignity in this Copac constitution it really beggars belief how a party like
    MDC that is supposedly standing for democratic change accept such trash. What
    Zimbabweans from all walks of life and political divide must now realize is
    this is not a race or political party issue but a national one and that it is
    in the nation’s interest that this rubbish does not become the supreme law of
    the land.

    The yes vote in the referendum is not a formality; with all the three parties
    having endorsed the constitution and the lack of free media in Zimbabwe, the
    system is loaded against the NO vote camp. Still reason is on the NO veto side
    and given a chance Zimbabweans will listen to reason. Zimbabweans are
    deliberately being kept in the dark but that does not mean they are stupid!

    The focus now should be on having this Copac Constitution rejected; it it passes them we are all going to be in serious trouble!

    • Yepec says:

      Zimbabwean electorate is not ignorant neither is it stupid as you take it to be since you have consistently refused to give it your strategy of how the people are going to move from NO vote to DEMOCRACY.A. Furthermore, a Constitution is as good as the person/s who administer it..If one is not committed to rule of law no constitutional, “free and fair elections” phrases in it (guaranteeing), will make him/her uphold it.

      Coups are taking place all over the world despite Constitutions which guarantee “free and fair elections”, can you explain why that is happening Wilbert? The Costitution guaranteeing what you are crying for is torn to pieces, why and yet this is what you are crying about in the Copac Draft?

      For your information, you need to know that the Copac Draft, contains within it the individual reforms that you are calling for which proves that you have not read or you do not understand it whatever you are talking about or preaching. You are advised not to write falsehoods but facts in your campaign for a NO vote. Be truthful to yourself and others.

      • wilbert_mukori says:

        When you have a media that is so bias and completely controlled by a dictatorship like Zanu PF stifling all meaninngful debate and obsessed about what people are allowed to hear; the people are bound to be ignorant, ill informed and brainwashed!
        Has there been any meaningful debate on this Copac rubbish? Many people will be voting in the referendum without even knowing what is in it!
        Then there are those like you who simply refuse to accept that there will be violence because you “wish” there was no violence. That is being stupid!

        • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

          You are being offensive and abusive to Yepec only because he has told you the truth. Yepec’s argument makes sense to a lot of people. Read his articles in respect of the COPAC initiative again and see the logic and rationale this young man has.

    • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

      First of all my constituency as libertarians was not involved in the negotiations that brought about the GAP agreement between ZANU PF and the two MDC formations. We are strongly are opposed to the reforms that are being talk about as we and a number of other political parties in the country did not participate or consulted when negotiations with the only three political parties were in progress. They can not impose their will on us as we firmly believe our interests were not taken into account.

      We were, however, consulted during the COPAC initiative and we fully endorse what it stands for without any reservation as it captures the will of the Zimbabwean people. Furthermore, we are aware that the COPAC initiative is merely a draft constitution which only becomes law when it has been fully debated and agreed to by the House of Assembly and signed into law by the Head of State. Of course, any good law of the land is entirely dependent on the caliber of the law makers themselves. It is a question of who is who in that House of Assembly and how much they can contribute to making the laws of the land more robust. As I have said before, laws of the land do not grow on trees but it is the effort put by our Members of Parliament in crafting good laws. Mugabe your archenemy and his government, do not make laws but the peoples’ representatives in that House of Assembly of Zimbabwe. It is this straightforward.

      For the first time, I am bound to agree with the sentiments of Yepec and shoot down your myopic views and of those I will not mention their names because they are always vying for my blood.

      • wilbert_mukori says:

        How can it be the will of the people that they should be beaten, raped and even killed just because some one does not want they to have a meaningful say in the governance of the country?

        The one thing all level headed Zimbabweans wanted in the new constitution is cast iron guarantees that the nightmare violence of 2008 will not be repeated. This Copac rubbish does not deliver that expectation, so how can it be what the people wanted?

        We all know this Copac constitution was “dictated” by Mugabe and Tsvangirai and others rubber stamped it!

        The people should be voting for a constitution THEY want and not what Mugabe want.

        • themba says:

          forget the noises being made by Freeth as he is trying to get paid for the land which his father in law had. least we forget Campbell was fighting against independence and was never prosecuted for having participated in the wars. forward 2013, the very English, British Passport holder in Freeth is talking about a Zimbabwean Constitution, yet the UK does not even have one. Don’t belittle yourself by thinking about fairness, its words which are used by whites. to get to write scriptures in the Bible to sup power from the black slaves.

          • super mondo says:

            stupid racist..fart somewherelse

          • wilbert_mukori says:

            I would rather have no constitution but enjoy liberty and rule of law than have a constitution that cannot do anything about lawlessness and thuggery!

          • GBZ says:

            What black slaves? In Zimbabwe!? It is time for a new excuse now as that one is getting a bit frail dont you think?

    • themba says:

      The original states, except Rhode Island, collectively
      appointed 70 individuals to the Constitutional Convention,
      but a number did not accept or could not attend. Those
      who did not attend included Richard Henry Lee, Patrick
      Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams and,
      John Hancock.

      In all, 55 delegates attended the Constitutional Convention
      sessions, but only 39 actually signed the Constitution.
      The delegates ranged in age from Jonathan Dayton, aged
      26, to Benjamin Franklin, aged 81, who was so infirm
      that he had to be carried to sessions in a sedan chair.

      The US talks alot about their constitution, but it was not written by the majority of the people, and never went for referendum. yet its considered as the mosty democratic country, please explain, as most of the founding fathers were slave owners and business people, how stupid are the black americans to be supporting it.

      • wilbert_mukori says:

        You are the genius, explain.

        • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

          You need to understand your own history to be able to appreciate the American history and its constitution. How can you know the history of the United States when you do not know your own. You do not know why the war of liberation was fought in Zimbabwe and you represent white capitalist in Zimbabwe. You do not want to hear the question of the land redistribution program and the indigenisation of the Zimbabwe economy and why these two economic concepts are important in the country today. It is because you do not know your own history.
          You always make a fool of yourself when you just talk about issues you do not know. First of all let me tell you right now that Themba is more knowledgeable than you about the American constitution.
          You need to read the 13th Amendment to the American constitution to appreciate that it was crafted without the African-American in mind. If anything it was crafted in such a manner as to keep the ‘negros’ who had been freed slaves as the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the white man. To this day, the African-American people in the United States do not regard themselves as a free people. While the constitution says slavery was abolished, the situation on the ground does not support this mirth and a pack of lies as racial superiority of the white man is very much evident in the United States. And the Obama administration has not been able to change things around, as he is the only black man at the White House who is surrounded by white administrators running his own affairs. Other commentators say Obama has more white administrators at the White House than was the case with George Bush who had a number of African-American administrators, for instance Susan Rice, General Powell who occupied highly influential posts. These are facts you need to know as our newly found political analyst so that you do not make a fool of yourself, end of story.

  2. super mondo says:

    well there goes investment in a racist country.

  3. super mondo says:

    only an idiot would invest in zimbabwe

  4. GBZ says:

    I believe there should have been two or even 3 constitutions drawn up, one from each of the 3 main players in the GNU, and then we vote for the constitution that we feel meets our expectations. To have this moronic set up where the constitution becomes a political ping pong ball is rediculous and it has taken on too much of the zpf/mugabe dictatorial hogwash and the will of the people has not been addressed at all. I can only hope that if MDC-T gets elected, which they will if there is any semblance of a free election, that they will redo the constitution and readress the will of the peace loving decent Zimbabwean. Iam afraid I believe the new constitution will be voted in, not because of any other reason than Zimbabweans want to be free of this bunch of lunatics in zpf and start a new era in our beloved country…..As for me and my house, We will serve the Lord….and my concience cannot allow me to vote for such an evil, dicrepid, set of laws that are outrageously racist and dictatorial. I will vote NO.
    2nd Chronicles 7:14
    If My people who are called by my name will humble themselves(seek forgivenes, repent) and pray and seek my face, AND TURN FOM THEIR WICKED WAYS then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sins, AND I WILL HEAL THEIR LAND……….BY GODS GRACE HE WILL DO IT IF WE TAKE THIS VERSE LITERALLY. Look at Fiji and others!!

    • wilbert_mukori says:

      I have to agree with you people will vote yes for this constitution even with all the evidence that the election is not going to be free and fair. They know they are going to be cheated they only hope is not cheated too much. How much is too much? Well in 2008 over 500 lost their lives and at the end of the day the nation got a totally dysfunctional government. This time there will be as many killed or worse and the national will have a government with a Zanu PF influence.
      If the people voted NO then they will never be cheated ever again; who would have guessed it would take a quantum leap for people to see that! It is obvious to you and me, common sense really. Sadly, common sense is not that common. It makes me want to cry just to think of it!

  5. jongololo says:

    The Zimbabwe government of this present day does not care about the population or what is best for the country as a whole; but nothing lasts forever and Zimbabweans shall enter a new era without Zanu-PF – of this I am very certain!

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