Sabhukus trample on rural women land rights

07 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Sabhukus trample on rural women land rights Some of the women receiving training on land rights from ZWACT in Mutasa District

The ManicaPost


Tendai Gukutikwa
Post Reporter

THE majority of women in rural areas face significant challenges regarding access to and ownership of agricultural, with single, unmarried and widowed women being the most affected.

They are allegedly being forced to pay bribes to traditional leaders to secure land rights, as they are often deemed ineligible due to absence of male guardian or husband.

The Manica Post caught up with three different women who were at the receiving end of the unjust practice, blamed for perpetuating gender inequality and weaken them economically.

Ms Esther Muchaga (not her real name) is a single mother from Mutasa District.

She recently approached a village head requesting for agricultural land, but was asked to grease his palms first.

“I approached the village head in need of land, but was told that I could not get it unless I paid him some money. He said I was not married, and as such could not acquire land in the area under his jurisdiction,” she said.

Ms Sarah Muronzwereyi, also of Mutasa is in the same predicament with Ms Machaga.

She is a widow who went back to her maternal roots following the death of her husband years back.

The village head told her to go back and inherit her late husband’s land.

Her husband was of Malawian origins, so Ms Muronzwereyi ended up settling with her brother’s family.

In Zimunya, Ms Charity Munemo was also dealt a bodily blow by the village head after her husband passed on. She wanted to subdivide the land equally among her three sons.

“I wanted to subdivide my late husband’s land among our three sons, but the village head demanded a huge sum of money to facilitate that, but I could not afford the money.

“I was asked to grease his palms because, according to him, the land did not belong to us. It was unfair since men did not face similar demands,” she said.

Named the “sabhuku deals,” the discriminatory practice being faced by most rural women are being perpetuated despite the Constitution and various statues that guarantee equal rights to land for all citizens.

According to the Constitution, Communal Lands Act, Rural District Councils Act and Traditional Leaders Act — all State land (that is traditional, communal and grazing lands) should not be sold.

The Communal Land Act, Chapter 20:04 seeks to ensure the security of land rights for communal land occupants, including women.

It also states that communal land shall not be sold or bought, but Ms Muchaga, Ms Muronzwereyi and Ms Munemo are just a few examples of women who have fallen prey to corrupt practices being perpetuated by some traditional leaders demanding bribes.

Statistics from the Zimbabwe Women Against Corruption Trust (ZWACT) show a staggering increase in the number of women falling prey to sabhuku deals in Mutasa and Mutare districts.

The data reveals a sharp increase in reported cases of women being victimised through such corrupt practices, putting to the fore the urgent need for intervention.


ZWACT executive director Ms Sandra Matendere

ZWACT executive director Ms Sandra Matendere

ZWACT executive director, Ms Sandra Matendere expressed worry over the alarming spike in sabhuku scams in the two districts.

“We have witnessed a significant surge in reports from women who would have been swindled through the sabhuku deals in Mutasa and Mutare. This trend is, not only disturbing, but also a clear indication of the extent to which corruption has permeated our communities,” she said.

Ms Matendere said they are working tirelessly to support all affected women to hold the perpetrators accountable.

“We want to ensure that these women get justice and the sabhuku scammers brought to book. We will continue to monitor the situation and work with the relevant authorities to curb this scourge,” she said.

Ms Matendere urged women to come forward and expose land corruption.

“Women should come out and bravely speak out against these sabhuku deals. These are scams denying women their right to access or inherit land. Their stories are a testament to the struggles rural women face in securing land rights in the country where the Constitution and laws proclaim equal rights to land for all citizens. Government is doing all it can to give everyone their land rights, but there are some unscrupulous traditional elements stifling women’s rights,” she said.

Ms Matendere said such discriminatory practices are rampant in rural areas, where patriarchal norms often override legal frameworks.

She said as a result, they are conducting programmes on gender responsiveness and administration in the affected areas to empower women on their land rights as well as documenting such cases for policy briefs and parliamentary recommendations.

The organisation is determined to tackle corruption and ensure that women have access to land without fear of extortion or discrimination.

“We want rural women to understand that land belongs to the State, and that its allocation must be free. They need to do due diligence and understand procedures to avoid falling prey to land barons and sabhuku scams,” she said.

ZWACT’s programmes have already made an impact, with women in the two districts becoming more assertive in demanding their land rights.

Also in an interview, Mutasa Rural District (Women’s Quota Representative), Councillor Tapiwa Kapichi admitted the prevalence of the problem in the district.

“We are facing a lot of land corruption in the district, the sad thing being that this corruption is being perpetuated by village heads.

“Chief Mutasa is on record denouncing land corruption, but it seems his message is falling on deaf ears. Some village heads are demanding bribes for land.

“As women, we will continue lobbying to make sure that such corrupt practices are curbed. We are raising awareness in the district that women should not pay for communal land as it is free, and that once someone demands money they should be reported to the authorities. If someone insists on selling such land, they must be arrested,” said Councillor Kapichi.

Chief Mutasa said the selling of communal land is illegal and that once caught, a village heads will be arrested and risk being dethroned.

“It is a sad thing that these women are not coming to report these land corruption matters to my court, which is higher than the village head. I have always stressed that communal land is not for sale. If one is caught, regardless of their position, they will be arrested. In my area everyone has a right to land despite their gender or sex,” he said.


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