corruptionwatch:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI
Let’s start with an inductive prediction made in this space in mid-December last year. A small prophecy, if you like.
That was after the publicisation of the executive summary of a report that the Land Commission, led by Justice Tendai Uchena, had just released for public consumption. The full report had been submitted to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Then, I expressed a low opinion of people who were optimistic that the new report would move us anywhere. My reasoning was simple. Almost all the reports that had been produced by commissions or committees before had not only failed to bring about any change, but had also been swept under the carpet, never mind the bulges.
In the early 80s, there was the Chihambakwe Commission report that was produced after inquiries into the Gukurahundi massacres. What we know about the Matabeleland and Midlands mass killings, torture, rape and persecutions is found elsewhere, like the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace archives, heavily censored biographies and media reports. Never the Chihambakwe Commission report, which disappeared the moment it was handed over to the then prime minister, the late Robert Mugabe.
A commission also tasked to look into the disturbances in southern Zimbabwe then, the Dumbutshena Commission, melted into the horizon. Now, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission is saying the reports disappeared and can’t be found.
There was the Flora Buka “preliminary” report into land allocations after the fast track land reform programme that commenced in 2000. The report was publicised to some extent, yes, but it was speedily retrieved by the government amid loud outcries from beneficiaries of the programme, who had been exposed for being multiple owners.
Because of the uproar that Buka’s report had produced, Mugabe’s government, where the current president was a senior minister, launched another committee investigation into the land reform, this one led by the ex-chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Charles Utete. The Utete effort was meant to divert attention, and it did that with some success. Instead of focusing on the land allocations or rather, reallocations, it broke a sweat blaming sanctions and all the blah blah for the chaotic manner in which the unplanned programme had been conducted. That wasn’t all. It recommended another land audit.
A land commission was then set up in 2005 but failed to do anything. It was only after the 2017 coup, in 2018 to be precise, that the “new dispensation” remembered the dormant commission and called it to work. More on this later, though.
There were other commission reports that were produced for decorative purposes. These include the Nziramasanga Commission into the state of education and, of late, the Motlanthe Commission report into the 2018 post-election state-sponsored violence against protesting civilians. The last report was published. Just that nobody in government is caring a hoot about what it said and recommended.
When the Land Commission executive summary was made public late last year, we were told the full report would be launched after the president had given it his eye. It’s clear that the president gave it his full eye, maybe even before it was officially handed over to him. The main problem is that this particular report, like its prior cousins, could also have disappeared already. Granted, two or three months may be a short time to come to that prediction. But it’s a sensible prediction if you know what’s obtaining on the ground.
When the Land Commission completed its work, it gave a copy to the president, whose bureaucracy also shared it with the security agencies, namely the police, army and central intelligence. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission also got a copy. It also looks like line ministers — not the permanent secretaries — also received copies. And that’s where the problem starts. The moment you confine such an important document to ministers and sideline the bureaucracy, the whole thing becomes political.
But that aside for now. What’s particularly worrying is that even the chairperson of the Land Commission doesn’t have a copy of the full report. Not to mention the commissioners who produced it. Well, another important detail. You may remember that outside the various stations mentioned above that received a copy, another one went to ZBC. That’s obvious because for a short period during the Christmas holiday, ZBC serialised the report. Then it stopped. The sudden silence by ZBC is telling.
The land report has been politicised. And it’s clear that ZBC was ordered to stop serialising it because the “new dispensation” suddenly noticed how dangerous it was going to be to continue doing so. Like its preceding cousins, the new report had to be swept under the carpet. That’s for numerous reasons, almost all of them similar to the ones that were associated with previous reports.
The Land Commission executive summary shows that there were gross violations and criminal acts by people and agencies involved in the allocation — more like grabbing — of urban land that the government had given over for sale from 2005, which is the period from which the commission’s work was marked off to begin. 170 farms valued at around US$3 billion were given for sale but the state received less than 10% of the amount.
The rest went to greedy war veterans, politicians, cooperatives and land developers. That’s the fulcrum of the matter. What the executive summary doesn’t say that is supposed to be in the full report is that all the cooperatives were headed by senior leaders of Zanu PF’s district coordinating committees. That says Zanu PF was involved in the multi-billion theft of land. And you know what “war veterans” refers to, right? Zanu PF. It’s farfetched to assume that “politicians” would also involve people from the opposition. So, again, it’s Zanu PF. And there is no way a private land developer could earn land under the scheme if he or she wasn’t linked to Zanu PF.
The commission, as indicated in the executive summary, made numerous recommendations that included investigations and prosecution of some 430 criminal violations of the scheme. The full report is the one that names those individuals and agencies, one by one, on a farm-by-farm basis, with most of the violations happening in Harare metropolitan and Mashonaland East.
What this then implies is that if the recommendation for prosecution is carried through, it will, essentially, be Zanu PF in the dock. The prosecution of involved individuals would open a big can or squirming maggots. The full report would bring more harm to the party because the prying, albeit weary, public will then be armed with too much detail. Enough to keep Zanu PF and its leadership sweating till the 2023 general elections. And it’s also clear that the political leadership in the “new dispensation” is busy looking at the implications of the Zanu PF membership and leadership being implicated by the report. So the full report must never see the light of day.
l Tawanda Majoni is the Information for Development Trust (IDT) national coordinator and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org