With hundreds of people being hauled to court everyday over illegal settlements across the country as part of the ‘Operation Order No To Land Barons’ evidence coming from the Ministry of Lands Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development indicates that traditional leaders have no mandate to distribute state or communal land.
Representing the ministry in a case against 11 illegal settlers from Mushandike Resettlement Village 18A and 19B who are facing charges of contravening section 3(1) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act Chapter 20:28 of the said act before Masvingo Magistrate Linet Mudzingo on January 26, Masvingo District Chief Lands Officer Takunda Chikura said it was illegal when local leaders are involved in parceling out state land.
“When councilors and traditional leaders are involved in land distribution it becomes illegal. Only the minister through the ministry has the right to allocate state land and council has the right to parcel communal land,” said Chikura.
Chikura further said three documents were required for one to be considered a legal settler on a piece of land.
“As mentioned in the Gazetted Land (consequential provisions) Act Chapter 20:28 one must have papers given to them from the ministry and these are an offer letter, or a permit or a land settlement lease and when these are offered the register updated which is not the case with some of you here,” said Chikura.
Chikura also said have the cards that some of the people have in possession of were only development levy cards from council which do not make them eligible land owners. He also further stated that those who are given land rights are only given user rights and not ownership rights.
In Masvingo province over 560 people have been arrested so far for illegally occupying state land and many village heads have been nabbed as the land barons behind this menace.
A number of traditional leaders mainly village heads have been dragged to court together with their subjects whom they would have allocated land.
The operation started on January 10, 2024 and is continuing to February 9 with the aim to restore sanity in communal lands in Zimbabwe.
The 11 accused persons’ trial was postponed to a later date.