LAND REFORM IN MOZAMBIQUE As in all African states, land ownership matters have been central to the battle for Independence in Mozambique and post-Independence policy. In 1979 the state promulgated a land law which vested land in itself, earmarked areas for socialist-oriented enterprise and restricted rural families to certain areas to encourage agricultural co-operative development and provide labour for state enterprises. The land laws [No. 6 of 1979 and No. 1 of 1986] permitted individuals to title their land and established titles issued by Government as the only mechanism for foreign access to land. Demand for land accelerated in the late 1980s as a result of the successful negotiation between Renamo and the Government and the introduction of the economic reconstruction programme. White farmers from South Africa and especially Zimbabwe represented a significant source of interest in land acquisition, resulting in a strong concessionaire culture [lands leased by Government to foreigners for certain productive uses].
In 1992 the Land Tenure Center of Wisconsin, contracted by USAID to examine tenure issues, organised the First National Land Conference in Mozambique. This was undertaken in conjunction with the Governments Land Commission established the previous year and now named the Inter-ministerial Land Commission within the Ministry of Agriculture. A subsequent Conference was held in May 1994.
In October 1995, Government approved a National Lands Policy (PNT) and an Implementation Strategy. A draft new land law was prepared in January 1996. This was circulated to 200 institutions, experts, NGOs and the media. Working teams were sent to all ten provinces. A Technical Secretariat compiled the findings and submissions, presented to a (third) Land Conference held in June 1996 and attended by 226 participants drawn from all public and private sectors. The resulting Working Document formed the basis for the Bill, considered by an open public session, two parliamentary committees and various other bodies, but not without conflict and delays (debate of the Bill apparently delayed three times in 1997). NGOs played a critical role in mobilising pro-peasant support. The Bill was formally approved on 31 July 1997. Regulations under the law were subsequently developed through a comparable working group mode with widely inclusive non-governmental participation and finally approved by Cabinet in December 1998.
In the interim a range of national and foreign NGOs and academics founded a National Committee to launch a Land Campaign. Its aim has been to disseminate the new law, to promote justice by enforcing the application of the new law and to stimulate discussion between the family and commercial sectors which occupy the same land areas. Rights of women in land, the right of communities to participate in tenure-related decision making and promotion of group action on land matters, have been important thrusts of the campaign. Manuals, leaflets, videos, comic books and plays have been developed. The Campaign operates in many areas of the country and continues into 2000.
Pursuant to the mode of Portuguese law, the new Land Law, 1997, is a concise set of articles, setting out principles with minimal detail or procedural guidance (and in this respect, a strong contrast to the highly detailed and prescriptive Tanzanian Land Act, 1999). Nonetheless, its promulgation was marked by prompt concern as to unclarities, ambiguities and lacunae, concerns not entirely remedied by the Regulations of the following year. In 1997, Kloeck-Jensen observed that the law neither met the ambitions of most citizens nor met the keenest of the donor community to create a clear legal environment for the development of private property and a free market in land. At the same time, ‘the law devolves more authority and autonomy to private investors and assumes a more conciliatory approach towards capital, both foreign and national’. Some writers examine the ambiguities of the law and Negrão concludes that the considerable consultation process had the effect of diluting consistent policy and rendering the law ‘more a platform for understanding between the different actors and interests’ than a strategy of reform – i.e. a compromise. The strong lobbying stance of Renamo appears to have constrained ‘pro-peasant’ developments.
A key legal tenure change provided by the law is the requirement that communities participate in the administration of natural resources and the resolution of conflicts [Articles 10 & 21]. This does not extend however to a right of veto. Another critical change is that communities as well as individuals may hold land and may be titled as such [Article 7]. Verbal evidence is accepted in the law as the basis of a recognised right in land. Application of the law is proving less satisfactory than these clauses suggest however, partly through the absence of clear community organisation and representation and partly through the retention of complex and expensive titling procedures, unfavourable to the poor majority.