HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Parliament on Tuesday approved a widely condemned Bill that stops white farmers from challenging land grabs in court and curtails the travel and voting rights of t
hose without full citizenship.
The Bill was passed by 103 votes against 29 in the 150-member house where President Robert Mugabe’s party has 107 parliamentarians.
Introducing the Bill in Parliament, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said: “This amendment will conclude the third chimurenga and the process of decolonisation.”
“It’s my hope that the process will be concluded with honesty and integrity.”
The Bill will also disenfranchise all those who have one or more foreign parents and hold permanent residency status but not full citizenship.
Another provision stipulates that anybody deemed anti-national will not be allowed to travel abroad.
Chinamasa defended it, saying: “It’s not morally right and patriotic for any Zimbabwean to gallivant the world on a Zimbabwean passport asking for a military invasion of Zimbabwe or the imposition of official and unofficial sanctions.”
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party denounced the Bill, saying the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party was doing what it pleased.
“They want to curtail our freedom,” said MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube.
“This is the rape of democracy.”
The Bill will also re-introduce a bicameral Parliament in a move that critics said was aimed at beefing up the ruling party’s presence in the legislature and to accommodate Zanu-PF members who lost parliamentary elections earlier this year.
Leslie George, a member of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said the Bill would “effectively suspend the rule of law, undermine the judiciary and will be a blow to investor confidence”.
Another CFU member said on condition of anonymity that it would “merely legalise and encourage widespread looting of the productive sector in Zimbabwe which would lead to further unemployment and crime”.
He said it would also legitimise “a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the productive Euro-African sector as part of a political campaign to eliminate all forms of opposition or perceived opposition against the ruling party”.
Zimbabwe’s land reforms, which began, often violently, in 2000 after the rejection in a referendum of a government-sponsored draft Constitution, have seen about 4 000 white farmers lose their properties.
The land has been redistributed to landless blacks in a move that the government has said is designed to correct imbalances created by colonial rule, when the majority of prime farmland was owned by about 4 500 whites.
The reforms have been trenchantly criticised by a leading lawyers’ forum and civic groups.
A committee of lawmakers who consulted interested parties three weeks ago, had also urged Parliament to amend the clause on farm seizures to allow aggrieved farmers to seek redress in court.
“It would be in furtherance of the tenets of natural justice that any aggrieved person be given the right to approach the courts for arbitration where there is a dispute,” the committee said in a report to Parliament. – Sapa-AFP