Cablegate: Parliament Passes Land Acquisition Act Amendments,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: (A) 03 HARARE 2451 (B) 03 HARARE 2421 (C) HARARE


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: After considerable debate, Parliament on
January 28 passed a controversial Land Acquisition Amendment
(LAA) Bill. The bill scales back due process protections for
property owners and expands the categories of properties that
may be confiscated under the government's land reform
program. Passing on January 29 without partisan bickering
was the Bank Use Promotion and Anti-Money-Laundering (AML)
Bill, which boosts the state's investigatory powers in the
financial sector. Parliament adjourned January 29 and is
scheduled to reconvene March 23. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) The LAA removes a requirement of actual notice being
served on a property owner or other parties in interest
(e.g., mortgage holders), instead requiring only that notice
be published in the government's official gazette. It
eliminates the option previously available under law for a
property owner to avoid compulsory acquisition of one
property by offering another, and invalidates all such
arrangements previously agreed to. The Act eliminates
limiting criteria relating to the nature of the land
compulsorily acquired, effectively expanding the scope of
land reform to encompass not just rural farm land, but also
(1) agro-industrial properties, (2) plantations of timber,
tea, coffeee, citrus fruit and sugar cane, (3) components of
export processing zones and properties operating under permit
of the Zimbabwe Investment Center, and (4) approved
conservancies. In the same vein, it repeals the Hippo Valley
Agreement Act, whereby the GOZ had granted certain
agricultural concessions in the Hippo Valley. (Comment: The
South African conglomerate Anglo-American is a major investor
in Hippo Valley and appears to be targeted by this
provision.) The Act also removes as a defense to compulsory
acquisition the fact that the designated property is the
owner's only piece of land.

3. (SBU) The LAA passed after some procedural irregularities
and a relatively quick but contentious debate. Bills are
required to be "gazetted" (officially published) at least 14
days prior to their introduction to the floor. After being
unavailable to interested parties, the LAA first appeared in
a special gazette issued December 5 but dated November 28,
and was under consideration by the Parliament less than 14
days after the date of actual publication. The Parliamentary
Legal Committee issued an adverse report on the bill by
mid-December, finding the Act provisions to violate Section
16 (dealing with compulsory acquisition of property) and
Section 18 (guaranteeing protection of law) of the
Constitution. Debate on the bill was uncharacteristically
sharp and detailed, with Minister for Agriculture Joseph Made
and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
Patrick Chinamasa figuring prominently. Invoking a law
denying MPs with direct pecuniary interest in legislation the
opportunity to speak or vote on the legislation, MDC Shadow
Minister for Legal Affairs David Coltart moved on January 21
to have all MPs who had been allotted farms under the GOZ's
land reform be excused from debate and the vote on the bill.
He presented a list of MPs with farms (including several
alleged multiple farm owners) but his motion failed after a
lengthy furor involving chaotic shouting matches and
temporary adjournment.

4. (U) The AML Bill passed without significant debate just
one day after its second reading (three readings are required
before passage). By its own terms, the law is intended to
steer more cash into the national banking system and to
enhance state powers to suppress money-laundering. The Bill
establishes a special investigative unit under the Reserve
Bank Governor to implement the law with support from the
police. It prohibits settlement in cash of debts exceeding
five million Zimdollars (approx. USD 1,400) and requires
parastatals and traders to bank surplus cash. It imposes
record-keeping requirements and limits on fees and cash
withdrawals at financial institutions. The Unit Director is
empowered to require institutions to disclose any records and
information on any transaction. Inspectors or police are
empowered to search any person and to seize any cash
suspected to be held unlawfully, subject to a subsequent
hearing before a magistrate. Parliamentary staff told us
that the Budget and Finance Committee played a meaningful
role in the bill's crafting, marching in a small army of
banking and finance experts that convinced the Minister of
Justice (and Acting Finance Minister) to make constructive
changes before its passage. We have conveyed the Bill's full
text to AF/S and to Treasury.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: At least two impetuses lie behind the LAA.
First, it retroactively "legalizes" GOZ acts in implementing
land reform that heretofore were unlawful -- essentially
invalidating innumerable court orders held by evicted
property holders. In this regard, it discards the GOZ's
assertion at Abuja and elsewhere that farm owners may retain
one farm. Second, it signals commencement of the next phase
of GOZ nationalization of Zimbabwe's assets: indeed, legal
proceedings and forcible evictions of owners of
agribusinesses, conservancies, and safari operators already
are vigorously underway. Real parties in interest behind the
evictions usually conceal their identities but uniformly have
turned out to be ruling party cronies when known. Following
on the heels of December's executive order permitting seizure
of agricultural equipment from former property owners (ref
B), the LAA's passage ironically evinces a heavily legalistic
dimension of the GOZ's evolving campaign to bring the
country's assets under the effective control of the ruling
party elite. The parliament's prominent role in this
reflects its growing significance as a debating forum and
institution in form, but in substance it remains a reliable
appendage of the ruling party.

6. (SBU) COMMENT (CONT'D): The GOZ's war on corruption is
the publicized impetus behind the AML Bill. In addition, we
understand that the need to extend a few statutory
instruments that were about to expire and a priority on
dealing with foreign currency pricing of services added some
urgency to the bill's fast track. Perhaps most salient,
however, was the GOZ's desire to bring more within its
control the considerable segment of society here that
operates outside the sometimes draconian and often
nonsensical vagaries of Zimbabwe's formal economy. The
enhanced powers afforded the State (liberalized warrantless
searches, for example) can be expected to be used against
selected business rivals and political opponents of ruling
party principals, both inside and outside the party.

© Scoop Media

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