Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
IT TAKES a humble commander to request the local authority to come to its aid and deal with people threatening its territory.
Ordinarily, the army should have deployed its tanks and personnel to remove civilians encroaching on its parcel of land in the Chalala area of Lusaka.
Instead, the new Zambia Army commander has been diplomatic and requested an audience with Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa over a glass of wine.
And before he got carried away, Lieutenant General William Sikazwe told Mr Sampa that an area proposed for a barrack in the Chalala area had been threatened with encroachment on several occasions and continue to be threatened.
The land is approximately 222 hectares.
It takes a lot of courage by some citizens to dare the military by threatening encroachment.
This is so because the country has tolerated lawlessness.
Land ownership, especially encroachment, is becoming increasingly worrisome. Not just because land is more than just an economic asset or factor of production but encroachment borders on greed, ignorance and criminality.
This has contributed to speculation on land prices, increased rentals, landlessness and, to some extent, missed development opportunities.
We have read several stories of people taking over land – residential plots, farms, places of worship, including industrial areas – with impunity.
Land issues are getting contentious and increasingly so as a result of the growing population.
As a result, the demand for land is ever increasing, prompting unscrupulous people to cash in on the same.
A few years ago, some Lusaka residents found themselves displaced when the Catholic church displaced them from its piece of land in Ng’ombe township.
The 702 families who had lived for over 10 years in Ng’ombe on land owned by the Roman Catholic Church were displaced overnight.
When the displacement occurred, Government gave 420 families plots out of the 700 families near the Independence Stadium.
The majority of the camp population were initially accommodated in tents.
The impacts of land encroachment has sometimes led to loss of life and property.
A land owner in Kanyama resorted to defending himself by shooting an encroacher who, along with his friends, has been coercing the owner to sub-divide the land.
Following the shooting, police moved in to provide the family security.
The Ministry of Home Affairs demolished about 200 houses near Konzani Gardens after the encroachers defied notices to vacate.
The Ministry had given notices twice asking people to remove materials.
In one of the biggest operations, 200 houses were demolished overnight. That is how the matter was settled.
Part of the land belonging to Zambia Army at Star Cottage was encroached. Some houses were demolished to show encroachers who was in charge.
Currently, some people masquerading as cadres are busy selling land in Mwembeshi from as little as K2,000.
People who are buying risk losing their money and building materials as well if they succumb to offers of land by non-land agents.
Land grabbing by people, especially those camouflaged as party cadres, has unfortunately continued.
Unfortunately, authorities are looking in the opposite direction and probably waiting to benefit from the looting of land.
In fact, the current land grabbing mimics the scramble for Africa. Now, it is the scramble for Zambia given the contest for ownership of land by the Ministry of Lands, the local authorities, political party cadres and by extension some real estate developers.
Fortunately for Lt. Gen. Sikazwe, he has politely informed the mayor of the greater city of Lusaka, who was expected to pass on the message to the legal department and councillors.
The army commander will not be held responsible should the Lusaka City Council fail to trace the encroachers.
Demolishing may be the only sure way of locating the encroachers who may in turn reveal names of those who offered them land on army land.
For now the contractor has already moved on site to commence construction of Buffalo Park Barracks.
Going forward, the Ministry of Lands is drafting the new National Land Policy, which is expected to address stakeholders’ concerns, especially encroachment.
Will it address the role of cadres?
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO