Zimbabwe’s Second Republic has brought with it hope for development and prosperity that could also have a negative effect on rural communities.
With the national leadership having given the necessary commitment to see through Zimbabwe’s development agenda, some of the projects have already been rolled out.
The growth trajectory is spreading across Zimbabwe since the beginning of the year with several companies launching projects across the country.
These include the re-opening of Eureka Gold Mine in Guruve, launch of Karo Resources in Mhondoro-Mubaira and other projects across Zimbabwe are an indication of the prosperity heading into the new Zimbabwe.
During the campaigns ahead of the July 31 harmonised Elections, President Mnangagwa underscored economic development as the pinnacle of new political dispensation.
This, he said, was evidenced by multi-billion dollars investment commitments secured this year laying the ground for the creation of a middle-income economy by 2030.
However, beneath this development trajectory, is possible conflict with communities facing displacement for these and similar projects.
The rapid urbanisation across Zimbabwe has seen an increase in urban areas as Government seeks to deliver houses for the people.
In addition to the housing provisions, Government has sought, through this policy, the development of rural areas through investment promotion.
In this endeavour, the new dispensation has directed that at least two districts in each province identify two growth points where interested investors can get titled land.
However, this has resulted in several challenges as local authorities intending to facilitate development in these areas, for various reasons, clash with communities who have to be moved for development.
The challenges have been observed across Zimbabwe through numerous of these clashes.
A local non-Governmental organisation, the Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation that has been promoting local capacities of communities in conflict transformation has, through its interventions also found out that the problem has, in some cases negatively militated against Government efforts to facilitate development in rural areas.
The CCMT also sponsored extensive consultative meetings and research on the issue in Mberengwa, Zvishavane, Shurugwi and Gweru.
The consultation involved community representatives, villagers, officials from Government departments and councils.
In an interview, Samuel Nkomo, the chairperson of the Gorongwe community, covering Chipedza and Chagwiza villages in Mberengwa District, who took part in the consultative meetings, said lack of policy co-ordination could stifle development projects.
“Although we held such meetings, the consultative process was inadequate leading to conflicts between affected communities and council officials.
“But through dialogue and consultations we identified the weaknesses and challenges that can help resolve these problems,” he said.
Government designated several sites as, either, controlled development centres or growth points earmarked for urbanisation.
Some of these centres, whose boundaries were gazetted through Statutory Instrument 378 of 1982, have expanded and will continue to expand and develop into towns, for example, Gokwe and Gutu. However, some of the centres have failed to develop due to various challenges associated with their areas.
The challenges include communities refusing to cede their land claiming that it is their main source of livelihood since they depend on it for agricultural purposes.
Local authorities, which are responsible for development, on the other hand, argue that the land belong to the State as provided for in the Communal Lands Act, which states that all land is vested in the President.
In addition, most communities who refuse to cede the land might have settled in the areas after the gazetting of boundaries making them informal settlers.
Councils are then expected to balance community needs affected by public interests although this has proved to be difficult without a comprehensive compensation policy taking into consideration of their needs.
Also missing are guidelines on how the process of moving people should be done and what to consider when they are moved.
Nkomo said: “There are also issues such as impact assessment which are clearly necessary but we would just be ordered to move from our lands.”
It was noted during the consultations that expansions often entails encroaching into communal land that is inhabited by local communities.
“In other cases, centres have not developed as expected, which sometimes led to a situation in which local communities continued to settle within gazetted boundaries.
“To allow urbanisation and rural development to take place, some local communities have to cede part of their land. As a result, the affected people may lose their homes, their lands and, at times, part of their livelihoods or cultural heritage.”
The expansion of the business centres, growth points and other development projects may or will trigger compensation debates and conflicts between local communities to be relocated and authorities.
The legislative and policy framework for compensation is guided by the Communal Lands Act, Land Acquisition Act, Regional Town and Country Planning Act, Manual for the Management of Urban Land among other legislative provisions.
The legislative provisions also include statutory instruments, circulars and ministerial directives.
Participants further noted that these legislative and policy framework encourage allocation of alternative land and mutual agreements between the affected communities and authorities requiring the land. The legislative and policy frameworks did not, however, provide specific guidelines to the effect above.
“It has no guidelines on timeframes for public notices for local communities on earmarked land, how to conduct public consultations and negotiations and to balance power relations.
“There are no guidelines on valuations and impact assessments for livelihoods rehabilitation. There are also insufficient guidelines preventing acquisition without compensation. There are also no provisions, in the legislative and policy framework, for the replacement of communal resources and local and social infrastructure, the protection or replacement of cultural and heritage sites and compensating disruptions and personal hardships.
“There are also mechanisms safeguarding particular vulnerable groups and to consider the interests of informal settlers.”
In trying to address the gaps, the consultations, spearheaded and sponsored by the Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation, led to the crafting of Guidelines and Recommendations that can be used for the compensation of local communities affected by growth point expansion and rural development projects.
These also seek to guide the local authorities faced with challenges of compensating communities that may lose their land in the process.
Nyoni said the document outlining the guidelines and recommendations would help to bring uniformity in dealing with challenges encountered.
“The days that people in Mberengwa or in Zvishavane receive different attention from their local authority are now over,” he said.
According to the recommendations on procedures regarding compensation, it is argued that there should be a public notice of intent, with communities being given sufficient notice to prepare to move to alternative land or incorporated into the development area. They should also be valuations at household levels with the authorities, affected households and communities getting an official time-frame for information gathering and evidence to support arguments for compensation.
“The purpose of such a valuation phase is to list, assess and value assets, structures and improvements that affected households may lose.
“Valuations can be carried out by using self-assessments forms and inspections for verification by the responsible authorities.”