HON. SEN. CARTER: Thank you Madam President. The Land Commission Bill is much needed at this time. In the interest of development, it is required to bring finality to the land reform. We had hoped that this Commission would bring public transparency, accountability and security of tenure. Alas, it does not do these things. These three words; transparency, accountability and security of tenure if implemented, can turn a country around. They can change poverty into prosperity.
Sadly, the Land Commission, through the Minister, increases Government control of agricultural land. More control means less public accountability and transparency. The tenure systems are getting more complicated and as far as I can see, none is supported by the banks. We were advised in this House that the 99 year leases are bankable, but this has not been confirmed by any bank. There has been no public statement, so it is still shrouded in confusion. Commercial agriculture needs to be underpinned by the banks which this Bill fails to acknowledge.
The Minister has extraordinary power in this Bill. He may cancel any title deeds he chooses to and he may acquire land on behalf of the State. He may then lease, sell or in fact, do anything he likes with the land. He is only accountable to the President, but the accountability is not to the public. No owner or occupier of land may enter a share cropping agreement with another person or company without the approval of the Minister. The Minister's consent is also required for all partnerships by holders of offer letters, leases or permits.
This is not a business friendly Bill. In fact, this Bill goes a step backwards from a modern free democratic state to feudal control. Government talks about the ease of doing business as being important for the country. They talk about it, but can you imagine every cropping agreement, every partnership proposal must be sent to the Minister for approval. The Government truly does not trust its own people.
This Bill is framed by the Land Reform, which is underpinned by the Constitution, which in Section 21(2) restricts the right of individuals who are not indigenous citizens to own, lease or occupy State land. For the record, as a white person, I must protest that this Clause is discriminatory. Can a white person not be indigenous? In our Constitution, citizens are separated from indigenous people on a racial basis which is unconstitutional and will eventually be challenged. This discrimination is based on the same principle as applied by the Smith Government against black people. Do two wrongs make a right?
About a thousand ex-white farmers are sitting poverty stricken in the towns around Zimbabwe. They have not been paid for their farms and they are not allowed to farm because they are white. They are second class citizens in their own land, but the main victims of the land reform were the ex-farm workers. I do not see anything in the Land Commission Bill referring to them. The irony of the Land Reform is that it has actually displaced 1.4 million people, being about half a million farm workers and their families with just under 300 000 new settlers.
There were more people displaced than they were settled. Also, the ex-farm workers were displaced without provision of any alternative living options. Zimbabwe stands unaligned to the United Nations Charter in this regard.
This Commission does not correct the mistakes of the past and therefore, will not improve anything. It will be expensive and continue to strangle the citizens of Zimbabwe with ever increasing costs.
The reality is that politics continues to dominate economics. If our friends on the other side of this august House continue to allow this economic oppression of Zimbabweans to continue, we will become a failed state. Thank you Madam President.
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