Resolving mining and agriculture land disputes in Zimbabwe

Ted Muzoroza, alumnus of Minerals Policy and Economics 2014, has been appointed Commissioner of Lands at the recently established Zimbabwe Lands Commission and Deputy Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Lands Commission. 

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa with an economy that depends heavily on its mining and agriculture sectors. Zimbabwe is one of the world's top 10 producers of gem diamonds and is endowed with gold, nickel, coal, platinum and cooper among others. Revenues from the mining industry account for about 30% of government income.

Zimbabwe has a total land area of over 39 million hectares, of which 33.3 million hectares are used for agricultural purposes. It has a diverse agricultural sector capable of producing tobacco, corn, cotton, coffee, wheat and horticulture however agricultural productivity has been severely impacted by drought and land reform.

Land reform is a contentious issue in Zimbabwe. It is steeped in deep-seated ongoing political and economic debates. The new Lands Commission, according to the Zimbabwean Constitution, has a number of functions including to ensure accountability, fairness and transparency in the administration of agricultural land that is vested in the State; to conduct periodical audits of agricultural land; to make recommendations to the Government regarding acquisition of land for public purposes; to enforce the law regarding systems of land tenure; and to investigate complaints and disputes regarding agricultural land.

Ted also chairs the Legal and Governance Committee which amongst its several functions deals with complaints, disputes and appeals pertaining to agricultural land. Disputes range from boundary disputes, mining on farm land, environmental degradation on farms caused by mining, human and animal conflicts.

This is a challenging portfolio. Ted was specifically appointed given his mining legal experience and close to twenty years of law experience working in the UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe. His current priority for the new Lands Commission is to carry out a national land audit to ascertain land size, productivity on land, challenges on the land especially pertaining to disputes and conflicts between miners and farmers which ties in with his role chairing the Legal and Governance Committee.  Since his appointment in June 2016, he has so far managed to set up a dispute resolution framework to assist the Commission deal with complaints, disputes and appeals in a professional and holistic manner.

They are a lot of challenges and conflicts between artisanal miners, small to medium scale miners and landowners as indeed farmers.  The current mining legislation in Zimbabwe (which is currently under review in parliament and a new Mineral Development Bill is being debated) gives precedence to mining over agriculture.  This obviously has been a recipe for disputes as this has not gone down well with farmers.  This is a source of conflicts which I am helping to deal with.

Since his participation in the IM4DC course in 2014, Ted has been giving presentations at local Mining Indaba conferences, is a regular commentator and invited guest on local television and radio shows on mining and environmental issues. He contributes articles on mining issues in local papers and has collaborated on mining and governance workshops.

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