The Coalition for Market and Liberal Solutions (COMALISO) is seeking to educate Zimbabwe on the importance of private property. Its project, “Happy Hut Million,” will use the successful case study of the tribe Fengu Xhosa, as an example that highlights the benefits of, as well as provides a blueprint for, the protection of private property.
Rural areas make up 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s population. Fengu Xhosa is the only tribe in Zimbabwe’s rural areas that has property titles. When COMALISO discovered this group, it learned that these titles were secured through the Fengu Location Land Distribution Act. The land ownership was able to be verified as a result of a survey that occurred in 1938 through the Bullock Commission which conducted surveys that established the property rights of the Fengu Xhoss. This evidence of ownership proved vital in establishing and maintaining private property.
“Sixty percent of citizens earn a subsistence living in rural areas,” said Rejoice Ngwenya, president of COMALISO. “By seeking to empower and enlighten rural citizens on the importance of property rights and ownership, this project places them on a pedestal and irreversible trajectory of economic, social and political independence.”
This story of the Fengu Xhosa creates an opportunity for COMALISO to highlight the potential of property rights. A lack of land ownership puts the population at the mercy of Zimbabwe’s government. Therefore, the focus of the project is to inform rural populations of the potential gains from private property. This would be a dramatic turn from the prior state of opinion that was characterized by Robert Mugabe and his Marxist style of government and private property violation. Even current political powers are still “trumpeting exactly what destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy — land expropriation without compensation.”However, This could change due to the unscheduled removal of Mugabe from the presidency in November 2017. The current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is trying to distinguish himself from Mugabe through the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business,” which gives COMALISO reason to believe that the new presidency will be more welcoming to rural property rights than the last.
Ngwenya hopes that through educational publications, an online presence, and in forums, COMALISO can influence the dialogue among opinion leaders, policy makers, and legislators to influence the rural socio-political climate. If this happens, the people of Zimbabwe will have taken the first step on their way to a more prosperous future.