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THE LAND QUESTION AND SOLUTIONS

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Oh what a contrast! When the King delivered the Speech From The Throne during the Opening of Parliament this year, among other things he described this year as a year of Jubilee and went on to define that the expectations on a year of jubilee are; happiness, love, forgiveness, peace and reparation.


In my opinion, in a universal situation where human rights are respected and enshrined in a supreme law, human rights including the right to land ownership should be a first degree right and needs to be promoted and protected.


In my opinion, in a traditional space and environment, land is vested in the King in trust for the Eswatini nation, and chiefs are the King’s footstools, who are the extension of the King in dealing with the Eswatini nation land management and allocation for settlement. In this scenario again, a citizen who has fulfilled the kukhonta procedures, should be protected.

EVICTIONS, DEMOLITIONS ARE NOT PEACEFULL


It is my opinion that evictions and demolitions of homes belonging to emaSwati who are law-abiding would be a serious contradiction to the spirit of the year of Jubilee aspirations as was defined in the speech from the throne, as evictions and demolitions are not peaceful, evictions cannot yield happiness and love, let alone acquisition of the First World status as always espoused and promoted in the speeches from the throne.


It is my opinion and belief that peace shall prevail and parties in the Madonsa Township and SNPF saga will find a lasting solution acceptable and non-hurtful to all parties.
I say this as a strong believer in dialogue, which is the best currency and conduit to solution-seeking and conflict-resolution.


Before God created man, He created heavens and the earth because land and resources are necessary to sustain and maintain life of all beings, plants, animals and human beings to be able to enjoy the right to life and be able to prosper economically and socially.

When God created the earth, he gave it free for humanity and all that lives in it. There were no conditions. We were expected to live in abundance by utilising all the resources that God left at our disposal.

As such, in my view, it would be ungodly to make people landless, as such no economic prosperity can take place for an individual at subsistence level if they did not have land to till, just as big businesses in the industrial/ manufacturing and minerals sectors as they will always require land to prevail and compete.


Remember God loved humankind so much that he created them in his own image and did not give life to Adam through remote control but he physically breathed into the nostrils of Adam to give him life. That is how much God values humankind.
And later when human kind had sinned, God again sent his only begotten Son to come down on earth to redeem us, such that though he had not sinned he died for our sins.

I am not intending to give a sermon in this article, pastors everywhere are better placed to do that, so don’t miss your Sunday services in my name. I am only affected and infected by the Word of God because I am a born again Christian.
The principle point I want to deduce from the above assertion is that the God of order availed land and resources first before he created Man and the central asset above all was land.


Before the Promulgation of the constitution, according to Eswatini law and custom, land was acquired through kukhonta and naturalisation. On acquisition of Eswatini nation land and land purchased on title deed land, there was concession, which most people who had it used for some specific purpose such as sheep grazing.

It is somewhat believed that some of the land that was leased without any purchase for grazing purposes ended up having title deeds yet there was no purchase transaction that ever took place. I should say that this is just a rumour. It is also rumoured that in pre-independence era, land issues were handled in Pretoria.

LEASED LAND, LAPSING DATES
As such, there are no systemic records for the leased land and the lapsing dates of some of these lapses. Some people even think that is the reason why in some instances emaSwati who have followed some formal kukhonta process at times find themselves victims of evictions because overnight they get to learn that the land upon which they legally khontaed for and were allocated, is now a titled land owned by a particular landlord and not the chief.


In Eswatini we still need a clear land policy and to know who is responsible for land allocation, because at the moment the land which vests in the King in trust for the Swazi nation, as enshrined in Section 211(1) of the Constitution of  Kingdom of Eswatini. We know that the functions of land distribution and management is delegated to several structures in the country, and this is where, according to me, confusion comes.

LAND DISTRIBUTION CAN ALSO BE DONE BY CHIEFS


Section 212 of the Constitution assigns the responsibility of land to the Land Management Board, but distribution can also be done by chiefs and their inner councilors, they too are accountable and answerable to the highest authority in the land.


The King’s office also provides for naturalisation which can only come when an incumbent has been brought by a chief. Somebody who has been accepted through kukhonta would then be directed to the Citizenship board for the allocation of a kukhonta certificate, which then legitimises them to find land in the Eswatini nation land under some chiefdom.
We also have the Farm Dwellers Tribunal which also plays a role in the question of farm dwellers’ disputes.
I am glad to state that in all this duplication of responsibility over land management and distribution, including dealing with issues of conflicts arising over land questions, the constitution talks to some fundamental pillars that need to be observed where eviction becomes necessary.
In my view, I unapologetically regard eviction as an act that borders negatively on the dignity of the eviction victim. I also view eviction as degrading on the victims of eviction. I consider eviction as dehumanising to the victim of eviction. I regard eviction as traumatising to the victim of eviction and their dependents. I regard eviction as deprivation and demolition and sometimes destruction of property of the eviction victim.
All things being equal, all situations that would lead to evictions would be completely avoided and prevented.
I am a firm believer in protection of property rights; I am a firm believer in the doctrine of the rule of law. I am a firm believer in not just any laws but just laws. I want to explain why I qualify laws by prefixing “Just laws” because unjust laws need to be opposed and corrected. The example of what I am saying is the apartheid laws. While they were laws and it was legally correct to discriminate on basis skin colour in the apartheid South Africa, this did not make this law internationally legitimate and the best way to deal with it was to violate it and the world in its collective felt apartheid was unjust even if it was law in South Africa and the world supported South Africans to fight against apartheid, Eswatini included.
Informed and persuaded by my political beliefs and ideology as a social democrat, I am a firm believer in solving conflicts and disputes through dialogue. History is on my side that all solutions that the world has been able to resolve are a product of dialogue.

SUSTAINABLE WAY FORWARD
Even those who are hot headed and easy to embark on other forms of conflict management other than peaceful dialogue, after they have destroyed a lot of lives and property they eventually come to the table for a sustainable way forward. As a social democrat I am an unapologetic believer in dialogue in providing peaceful and lasting and sustainable solutions to problems.
It is my belief that sometimes evictions are unavoidable but there should be a just and humane way of dealing with such an avoidable but traumatic situation.
I am pleased that the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act No. 1 of 2005 somewhat addresses the process that needs to be considered when and where evictions are inevitable or inescapable.
Section 18 (1) reads thus; “The dignity of every person is inviolable”
Section 18(2) of the constitution reads thus; “A person shall not be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Section 19(1) reads thus “A person has a right to own property either alone or in association with others.
Section 19(2) (a) and (b) reads thus
“A person shall not be compulsorily deprived of property or any interest in or right over property of any description except where the conditions are satisfied-
l    The taking or possession or acquisition is necessary for public use or in  the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health;
l    The compulsory taking of possession or acquisition of the property is made under law which makes provision for-
l    Prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation; and
l    A right to access to a court of law by any person who has an interest in or right over the property;
The taking of possession or the acquisition is made under a court order
I am pleased that in the same Bill of rights Sections 20 and 21 of the Constitution talk to equality before the law and the right to fair hearing respectively.
I want to be understood that I don’t support land grabs or encroaching into titled land. Both land grabs and encroachment I regard as unlawful and sometimes criminal and in such situations the law should unapologetically take its course, but where people legitimately followed all legal procedures and legitimately acquired it.
I want to appeal to all ministries concerned with land issues to construct a harmonised land policy for the country that is simple, understandable, doable, a policy that would be understood by the ordinary liSwati who wants to settle in Eswatini nation land, a liSwati and foreign person or company that wants to invest or even acquire a 99-year lease for economic development projects.

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