Educate chiefs on land administration issues

HARARE - A land wrangle between a prospective house developer and Chief Zvimba poses serious administrative questions about the emotive issue of proper land ownership in Zimbabwe regarding the role of traditional chiefs.

Squabbling between Old Mutual, Harare City Council on one hand and Chief Stanley Mhondora Zvimba on the other, clearly illustrates a mistaken and bigoted belief among traditional leaders that they take land as their personal property.

For conservative cultural revivalists, it is accepted wholesomely that the prime role of traditional leaders has always been to intercede with the ancestral spirits on behalf of clansmen.

But utterances by Chief Zvimba  such as: “since this is my land”, when instructing an apostolic faith sect to remain put on a piece of land targeted for housing development make it imperative that chiefs’ roles be clarified to clear ambiguities.

The assertion is a feudal and compulsive preoccupation with something that constricts development and an open display of unhelpful snobbish arrogance by the traditional chief.

Quite frankly, Chief Zvimba’s fixation flies in the face of the much-vaunted resource nationalism ideology currently in vogue with the ruling elite which places egalitarian land ownership as a communal responsibility.

More importantly, since independence and the subsequent agrarian reform programme of 2000, little has been done to amend administrative laws confronting domineering chiefly power and the blurred line between chiefs’ jurisdiction and claim of sole land ownership.

Government has allowed the chief, the headman and the village head to exercise vicarious authority in communal lands based on unwritten law stipulating that every arable patch in rural Zimbabwe belongs to the chief and selected clansmen.

Such an arrangement basically leaves everyone at the mercy of an omnipotent tribal head, obsessed with this fallacious claim of sole ownership to land and imply that every Zimbabwean is a vassal tenant of the traditional chief.

There has to be a clear distinction and set parameters between jurisdiction and ownership regarding land.
Progressive nations have abandoned archaic systems and arrangements that impede national progress and development. So it is not too late for Zimbabwe to follow suit unless it desires to remain stuck in awkward situations of bigoted arrogance from traditional leaders.

Chiefs appear ignorant of their limited jurisdiction and seem unable to grasp the difference between jurisdictions as opposed to ownership.

They need to be educated on that score without making them feel unduly emasculated from their revered role as spiritual intercessors and as the normative customary bridge between the living and those in the spiritual realm by cultural revivalists.

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