The Traditional Leaders Act (20:17) outlines the critical role traditional leaders play in the governance of communal areas in presiding over the administrative needs of the communities. In this regard, their work is configured around land tenure which is a relationship among people with respect to land. However, land tenure is multi – dimensional as it bring into focus social, economic, institutional and political aspects that determines community cohesion or chaos. In Matikwa, Mahachi, Vheneka, Machona Chisumbanje and Bitcon Villages, there is land-related conflict and dispossession that is gradually threatening security and stability. Traditional leaders in the mentioned communities are embroiled in land disputes with the local people as they are parcelling out land as residential stands to new arrivals in the communities charging exorbitant prices. This exercise is viewed by the local people as poorly conducted with ambiguities open to exploitation and loss of land.
Local families are in disagreement with the manner in which the traditional leaders are allocating land for habitation and the money they charge for the exercise. This is done in a context-insensitive way and this has provoked tension and suspicion among local people. At Checheche growth point, people are paying between $2000 and $5000 for a 300 square metre residential stand, and the village heads in the aforementioned villages are now charging between $500 and $1500 per residential stand from a standard price of between $20 and $50. This has caused additional pressures to land resources, causing disputes to flare up as the allocation is in disregard to land traditionally reserved for grazing purposes. The increase in communal land value is surely a match stick that can trigger conflict. The village heads in the affected villages are basically profiteering from such unfair exercise.
Local people have had their traditional land demarcated for apportionment. This has resulted in the creation of artificial stands for resale by the traditional leaders. At the same time, local villagers are worried by the disrespect to the environment and people’s security. The stands are being created very close to the road and also along water streams. This has weakened community specific informal land arrangements and conflict resolution mechanism as the exercise is bound to be a breeding ground for communal conflict.
“The communal land has been slowly turned to unaffordable levels to most poor families, and this problem is leaving a deep wound on our next generation. People will soon lose their land as there is no security of tenure and greedy traditional leaders are taking advantage of the situation” Quelani Sithole said. “It is a destabilizing exercise in Chipinge that is putting families into a cycle of poverty and emotional turmoil, affecting current and future prospects for community stability” she continues.
Effort Manono of Vemuganga Community Radio was quoted as saying, “Strategies to tackle communal land allocation should focus on creating community cohesion and reducing the risk of land based conflicts. The people we currently have are a new crop of young village heads who strive on profiteering at the expense of customary rights to land.”
PYD is urging traditional leaders to ensure security of tenure to local people in exercising their role because people with insecure tenure face the risk from competing claims as a result of arbitrary land allocation. Without security of tenure, local households are significantly impaired in their ability to secure sufficient food and to enjoy sustainable rural livelihoods. When asked for a comment, the PYD Director Mr Claris Madhuku admitted that the traditional leadership need to be given attention.
PYD is interested in the capacitation of some of these accused young traditional leadership to understand their mandate in protecting settlement patterns that have always made the rural areas safe places.
Source: Platform for Youth Development (PYD)