Chronicles Of Statutory Instruments And Grass vs The People

Disclaimer: Some legal concepts are going to be discussed in this post but the arguments I’m going to make are by no means a full understanding of the law. It’s just a guy who thinks he’s funny and opinionated sharing his point of view.

A map of Zimbabwe

We are 62 days into 2021 and so far 57 statutory instruments have been issued by the government of Zimbabwe. We’re almost going at the rate of a statutory instrument a day but you know what they say, a statutory instrument a day keeps democracy away. In 2020 a grand total of 314 statutory instruments were issued and it seems like Zimbabwe doesn’t run without them. So what are statutory instruments and how do they work? Well there’s much more involved in it but generally statutory instruments are regarded as subsidiary legislation whilst Acts are the parents. So for each statutory instrument to be promulgated usually by a minister or someone of similar standing there will be an Act that provides for such action by the MInister or whoever other person.

And for their validity it is crucial to consult whether the Parent Act provides for the way the power would have been used in issuing the SI. So unlike the passing of Acts that requires the consensus of the Parliament, SIs can be given by say Minister of Finance subject to protocols outlined in whatever act. However, if the SI contradicts the spirit of the Act, Constitution or abuses power etc it can be challenged in the courts on those grounds. So funny enough no Act can be passed without going through parliament etc but an SI can be issued without going through Parliament thereby altering a law that was made by the representatives of the people but that’s another whole issue.

So when interpreting SIs the first thing you have to look for is the clause which tells you in terms of what Act it’s being made. If that’s in order you then check the purpose of the SI. It also usually has an interpretation clause which defines keywords and that is crucial when these SIs are later argued. Depending on the complexity of each SI you can go through the chapters one after the other following whatever issues it is addressing and so on. When an SI contradicts with an Act for mere ignorance the Act prevails but you might actually have to prove that in court first. Clear? I hope so

Statutory instrument 50 of 2021

So this discussion brings us to statutory instrument 50 of 2021. This recent extension of the law by the government is reportedly set to displace over 12 thousand rural citizens in favour of a dairy company that wants to grow grass for its cows. According to villagers who spoke on a documentary titled “War Over Land, People vs Grass – A Tale of the Minority Shangani Tribe” (recently shot by HStv), Dendairy is the company set to be benefiting from this project. The people set to lose their communal lands are the Chilonga villagers of Chiredzi, situated in the south-east of the country.

In the documentary the villagers told a story that went back as far as colonisation. How back then they were removed from their ancestral lands by white settlers and when independence came, it came with promises of them holding onto what was theirs for the foreseeable future but now they are being relocated again and without consultation. The developmental refugees of colonial times are now again victims of development in a free Zimbabwe. Yet this is not new. Under the late former President Robert Mugabe, residents of Manzou Farm were evicted for an animal sanctuary by his wife Grace Mugabe. And not forgetting the 2009-2011 Chiadzwa evictions to make way for diamond mining and also the 2005 evictions and propert destruction under the name operation Murambatsvina.

So why has this latest issue been titled “Grass vs The People”? Well the area the Chilonga villagers are being removed from is set to be used for lucerne grass farming. Around 10,000 hectares of it. What is lucerne grass you may ask. Lucerne is a deep-rooted, nitrogen-fixing crop that has seen a surge in interest among livestock farmers looking for a drought-tolerant fodder option. Well lucerne is a deep-rooted, nitrogen-fixing crop/grass and most interest in it is by livestock farmers looking for a drought-tolerant fodder option. So essentially it’s stock feed and it’s understandable why a dairy company would invest it.

The government has said the project will be beneficial to the villagers in the long run and they blame the resistance to it on naysayers. Yet the locals point out that projects in Honde Valley were also supposed to benefit locals but then their children who’ve graduated are still sitting at home without employment. They also call on government to respect ancestral land because they’re ready to defend their heritage. Checkout the HStv documentary below:

In collaboration with Tapiwa Mukandi.

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