Corruption hampers women’s access to land rights: ZWACT Research


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Research by the Zimbabwe Women Against Corruption Trust (ZWACT) has shown that corruption is one of the key stumbling blocks hampering women from enjoying their access to land rights in Zimbabwe.

This emerged today at the launch of the ZWACT report titled “Gendered impact of land corruption and displacements on women’s access to socio-economic rights in Zimbabwe” held at the Kentucky Hotel in Harare.

The report gave special attention to victims of the 2023/4 internal displacements in the Masvingo and Manicaland Provinces of Zimbabwe.

“The research was commissioned to interrogate the extent to which women enjoy their access to land rights in Zimbabwe with special attention given to victims of the 2023/4 internal displacements in the Masvingo and Manicaland Provinces of Zimbabwe. In keeping thereof, the assessment examined the impact of the internal displacements on women’s land rights and enjoyment of human rights in general, shedding light on how these displacements affected women’s access to clean water and sanitation, food security, and reproductive health rights.

“The research methodologies used typically involved a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Qualitative methods such as interviews, focus groups, and case studies were employed to gather in-depth insights and personal experiences from women who have been affected by land corruption and the displacements. These methods provided a nuanced understanding of the challenges and barriers faced by women in accessing and maintaining land rights,” said Allan Chaumba, the Lead Researcher.

The report revealed that in terms of land ownership, women still lag behind with only 2% claiming to be owning the land where they stay and also where they were evicted from in Manicaland and Masvingo Province. 98% did not own the land. Traditional leaders who had allocated them the land had done so in the names of their husbands who also did not have papers as proof of either legal occupancy or ownership.

The study noted that 70% confirmed having been given the land by the state through their traditional leaders with the jurisdiction of the government. Ten (10) percent confirmed having inherited it from their late parents and relatives who had died. Another 10% confirmed having bought it. However, that raised questions since communal land cannot be bought since it is state-owned. Further probing revealed that they had paid money to traditional leaders to get resettled, which speaks volumes about the prevalence of corruption in the land resettlement programme.

Proof of ownership of land is manifested through having Title Deeds, 99-year leases, or Certificates of Occupancy. The Study noted that the land where they occupied was not in their names.

The study confirms that customary law, traditional norms, and values are the leading obstacle (45%) followed by corruption (19%), inadequate legal and policy frameworks (9%), and the lack of implementation of existing legal and policy frameworks (9%). In addition, there appears to be a lack of political will (8%) to address these challenges because they existed during the pre-independence era and the same still exist 44 years after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

Favouritism (35%) came prominently as the most common form of corruption which involves showing preferential treatment or giving unfair advantages to some individuals or groups based on personal relationships rather than based on a real need for land. This leads to inefficiencies and incompetence in decision-making processes. This is followed by nepotism (29%) in which individuals in positions of power or authority show preferential treatment to their family members or friends, often at the expense of more deserving and qualified candidates.

Bribery scored 24% in which public officials and traditional leaders are offered items of value (such as money, livestock, gifts, or favors) to give land to the landless. Women lamented being poor and unwilling to give such bribes and that explains why some of them do not have land even if they wanted to pay the bribes. In addition, 6% of the respondents accused public officials of demanding sexual favours in exchange for land.

Addressing the same gathering, Dr. Onesmus Nyaude, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) Manager, Reasearch and Knowledge Management, who is also the National Anti-Corruption Strategy Officer in the Office of the ZACC Chairperson, said of the five criminalized offenses, bribery can also affect women within the confines of the land issues.
“Apart from bribery, there is also concealment of transaction from a principal. The Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) has been talking about councillors involved in land corruption. There is also concealment of personal interests in certain transactions and issues around corrupt use of forged documents to ensure that women are deprived of their rights to land, as well as issues around abuse of power,” Dr Nyaude said.
Zimbabwe has signed and ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Tomorrow, 11 July is the African Anti-Corruption Day 2024 to be held under the theme “Effective Whistleblowers Protection Mechanism: A Critical Tool in the Fight Against Corruption”
“The issue is that whistle-blowing is very important this year. Whistleblowers are very important because they unearth various malpractices, the corruption instances, and report them to the Zimbabwe Anti Commission using various structures. When we speak to the current generation, the future generation, and even the past generations, they rely on us speaking out in terms of what we are coming across, the vulnerabilities we are experiencing, and all the perceptions around the feminization of poverty leading to women being victims.
“We have heard from this research that people connive, and when they connive, it is very difficult for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to understand those intricate issues. Therefore, as whistleblowers, you can then bring about the connivance dynamics around the manifestations,” Dr Nyaude added.