Is there a law governing communal land?

The Communal land is governed by the Communal Land Act Chapter 20:04. This Act should be read together with the Land Acquisition Act, Traditional Leaders Act and the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Which land forms part of communal land?

It is not easy to define which land constitutes communal land. However, any land which is not private land, not commercial land, not State land and not urban land is most likely to be communal land. Many people living in rural Zimbabwe live on communal land

Who owns communal land?

Communal land has no owner in the strict sense. However, the President of Zimbabwe is given the authority over all communal land. It is the President who then allows its occupation and use in terms of the Communal Land Act.

Can communal land cease to be such?

Yes, by a declaration the President can subtract or set aside part of the communal land for certain specified purposes, for example dam construction, irrigation construction, township/growth point expansion, for parks and wild life purposes etc. The minister of Local Government can also set aside communal land for the same purposes.

What will become of the residents of the communal land set aside?

The Minister will give the residents a notice to leave the area set aside permanently together with their property. Any person who suffers loss to use and occupy land as a result of the Presidential declaration or Ministerial setting aside of the communal  land SHALL be compensated by the government in form of alternative land or if there is no alternative land or no agreement has been reached on alternative land, monetary compensation MUST be given.

Who administers the communal land?

It is administered by the Rural District Council under which the land falls. The RDC gives people the right to occupy and use the land. This is done in consultation with the traditional leaders of the area concerned. The right to occupy and use is given with respect to customs and traditions of the inhabitants of the area concerned.

What do I do if the State violates my right to occupy and use communal land?

Individuals or/and groups can take the State to court and force the government to respect the law. People can also approach the local authorities/minister of local government with petitions demanding their right. Other forms of peaceful protests can be used to draw attention to the cause.

How do I approach the courts or the relevant authorities?

Get in touch with your lawyer or any human rights organisation for proper legal advice. ZimRights is one such organisation.

NB: No traditional leader or any other person has the right to grant permission to occupy or use communal land without the authority of the Rural District Council within which such land falls. Occupying or using communal land without the authority of the RDC concerned is a criminal offence.