Source: Good corporate governance in land tenure and administration | The Herald 01 MAR, 2018
Good governance is increasingly recognized as critical to effective development. Land and property are generally the major assets in any economy.
In Zimbabwe, land accounts for three-quarters of our national wealth. Land is also a fundamental factor for mining and agricultural production and is thus directly linked to food security and revenue generation.
Failure to craft and implement an effective land governance policy can contribute to frequent failures in realising objectives in the land sector as well as in other developmental projects.
Security of tenure is an important foundation for social and economic development. Fees and taxes on land are often a significant source of government revenue particularly at the local level. Securing of land rights is particularly relevant to all citizens. There are many competing demands on the land sector including development, agriculture, pasture, forestry, industry, infrastructure, urbanisation, biodiversity, customary rights, ecological and environmental protection. However, the Government has a great difficulty in balancing the needs of these competing demands.
Good governance in the government’s relations to local communities is of paramount importance in the mitigation of climatic change as this depends on local forest protection and forestation. Land tenure and environmental conditions are closely related. Hence, land tenure can promote land use practices that harm the environment or it can serve to enhance the environment. Insecure land tenure is linked to poor land use which in turn leads to environmental degradation. Lack of clear rights can reduce the incentive to implement long-term resource measures such as undertaking soil protection measures, planting trees, and improving pastures.
In contrast, well-adapted land tenure rules can promote sustainable land use. The Government should ensure that land tenure policy arrangements are strengthened rather than threatened. A good policy may be able to improve security of tenant farmers, for example, by ensuring that the conditions of their leases encourage them to adopt sustainable land use practices. Therefore, the public and financial institutions should embrace the idea of the 99-year land leases, as this comes with a lot of benefits that includes attracting investments and conserving of natural resources.
In order to improve the sustainable use of natural resources, land tenure strategies should be linked with appropriate land management tools such as the agro-ecological zoning to ensure that land is put to a use that is suitable for its soil, land form and climatic characteristics. Increased participation and the empowerment of community structures is also required to ensure effective self-management of the natural resource base. Therefore the country should invest in the technical and institutional infrastructure required for efficient and equitable land tenure administration. It is important for policy-makers, while recognizing the need to reform land tenure arrangements to ensure that they incorporate sustainable practises that support good corporate governance.
There was until recently more illegal grabbing of land, sometimes by government officials, influential individuals, the military or police.
Although the Government had laws in place which prohibited such activities they were often ignored or there was a lack of will to implement the laws. The land of vulnerable ethnic minority groups was grabbed to enable illegal, or land baron-sanctioned concessions to proceed.
The Government should formulate and adopt an effective Code of Conduct with regards to land commissioning. The Code should require all staff to apply a high level of commitment and to act with professional conscience, dignity, honesty, transparency and good governance in all aspects of work adhering at all times to the Code of Conduct with the aim of contributing to the Government’s efforts to achieve zero tolerance towards corruption.
The Government should establish mechanisms to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of good governance measures, and be prepared to take corrective action when failures or evidence of failures are identified. Feedback from the public, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders should be encouraged to assist the overall monitoring.
However, in order for the feedback to be generated the government must have mechanisms in place for such feedback to be received and processed. Also these individuals and organisations must feel confident and indeed safe to raise their concerns.
Good governance in land administration is fundamental to the achievement of goals in this new dispensation. Principle 436 of the National Code of Corporate Governance Zimbabwe, states that the Government plays both an administrative role and a coordinating role through its agencies at every level. It is therefore the Government’s responsibility to ensure effective maintenance of security, law and order and the protection of property of all members of society.
The success and sustainability of good governance measures in land administration requires government’s total commitment to genuinely reform in terms of corruption intolerance and transparency with regards to land tenure and distribution. Lastly, good governance is essential for the efficient and effective stewardship of the environment and other natural resources.
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