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One of the topics of the 2018 Speakers’ Forum Summit considered the impact of the High Level Panel (HLP) report, which was commissioned by the sector to assess the effectiveness of laws passed since 1994. And how it impacts on the sector’s legacy of this tenure. 

 Two of the discussants on this topic, Mr Thulani Tshefuta and the Professor at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, Ms Ruth Hall, were members of the HLP. The third discussant was House Chairperson of Committees and Oversight at the National Assembly, Mr Cedric Frolick.  

The greatest achievement in this current parliamentary tenure is the institutionalisation of the sector into a united entity. That for me is a prerequisite of an organised body, said the Member of the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation, Mr T Tshefuta. “This will ensure that it there is no situation in which some of the legislatures in the sector are allowed to collapse. But remain resilient as a unite entity.”

In his view, the sector’s institutionalisation of the High Level Panel that allowed it to pause and look back is one of its greatest achievements. “We often forget to look back on the values of the work we do.”

But most significantly, he stressed, the HLP public participation process has reaffirmed the sector’s commitment to be open to public scrutiny. “It was courageous of the sector to open itself up to criticism.”

Out of which, we recognised that the people are the greatest resource we have at our disposal, he said. “We often view people as liable. While they may have challenges, they also have solutions on how to solve them.”

The irony that is yet to be addressed is that legislation is often introduced by the executive. This remains an abnormality because “it comes contaminated with administrative processes of the executive that set the agenda for law-making when it is the sector that set legislative agenda of what it wants to achieve based on its oversight findings”. 

He cautioned against short-term planning that is linked to the five-year tenure of each parliamentary term. “The focus should not be about what can be achieved over five years. But about how the five years can be utilised to implement a longitudinal plan that will yields positive results in a long run”.

He also emphasised the need for the sector to realign its oversight work with the NDP. This to indicate “to indicate which aspects of legislation can help to advance the ideals of NDP.”

He also called for the establishment of monitoring and evaluation capacity of the sector’s oversight model in order for it to have a meaningful impact on the lives of the people. According to him, if the above can take place the sector would leaning towards the ideals of capable developmental legislatures that can match the ideals of capable developmental state as espoused by the NDP.

Mr Frolick stated that the recommendations of HLP have been referred to relevant committees. “Committees are currently busy processing some of these recommendations.”

Part of the legacy of the fifth Parliament will involve the recommendations of the HLP Report. “By the end of November all committee’s reports will be submitted.”

But it is expected that the six Parliament will draw from it and decide what should be done to implement these recommendations.   

More significantly, in response to the HLP recommendations, Parliament will establish a Public Participation Office, he said. “This may not need an employment of new people, but a realignment of resources. We are currently engaging this idea in our Join Rules Committee.”

He also highlighted that the parliamentary process into the HLP work is not closed. “As such there is a view that there is a need to conduct further public participation on the HLP recommendations as a means of taking this process forward.”

The Professor at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies and the Member of the HLP, Ms Ruth Hall, decried the slow pace of land reform. “If conducted at the current pace, the current land claims that were closed in 1998 will take 35 years to conclude. And new claims at this current rate will take up to 143 years to conclude.” As such, the promise of land redistribution is unlikely to be met at the current pace. She however, commended the establishment of the HLP. “This was an impressive move on the part of the sector.”

What disturbed her most is the lack of the of a guaranteed land tenure for farm dwellers who get evicted from farms despite the existence of a bill to secure their rights to land tenure on farms.  “Worst of all, 99% of the eviction were done without any court order. This means land dispossession still continues.”

She advocated for the establishment of, among others, the Land Rights Protector to guide against the abuse of land rights and to resolve land conflicts.”

By Abel Mputing

29 November 2018