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Keep close eye on land

THE United Party for National Development (UPND) administration has resolved to restore the rule of law in the country.
After four months in office, it is evident that the party in Government is walking its talk on ensuring that the rule of law will prevail.For instance, the Government has banned caderism in bus stations and markets, a measure which has resulted in local authorities reclaiming their place in the running of the public facilities as well as significantly improving revenue generation from these sources. Now, the Government wants to restore order in land administration, an area which has been problematic in the past with total disregard for the law. By law, the Ministry of Lands is mandated to manage issues of land in the country, with local authorities as agents. But cadres and councillors had usurped this mandate by unilaterally grabbing and distributing land. Often buyers were duped out of their money by selling the same pieces of land to several people. The behaviour of cadres, supported by some councillors, got out of hand to the extent that they grabbed land from private citizens as well as corporates and public institutions with impunity for their selfish benefit. This has been such a sad story of our political dispensation. The anarchy that prevailed in land allocation is absolutely unacceptable. Some owners of land did not only lose their prized possessions but lost their lives as well in their efforts to reclaim what belonged to them. These cadres were so much above the law that they not only grabbed land, but also ignored institutions such as the Land Tribunal, an institution created to adjudicate over land disputes in order to protect individual and institutional interest in land. This lawlessness contributed to many people deciding to vote out the then governing party, the Patriotic Front, in the August 12, 2021 elections. The citizens just couldn’t withstand such brazen disregard of the law and authority. Some of the cadres who appropriated land illegally under the PF rule are now in hiding while those who bought land from them risk losing it. This could have been avoided had cadres followed the law. Some structures illegally built on private or public land are now earmarked for demolition. The biggest losers in this case are developers who trusted cadres by buying land from them. This is a very sad state of affairs arising from illegalities by cadres and, to some extent, councillors who tolerated or abetted this criminality. Now that the Ministry of Lands is restoring the rule of law, people will no longer be afraid to buy land anywhere in the country knowing that their investments will be safe. In ensuring that the rule of law is fully enforced, minister of Lands Elijah Muchima has warned UPND cadres against interfering in the work of his ministry and local authorities by engaging in the illegal allocation of land. Mr Muchima has issued a warning that cadres and councillors who will be caught or found engaging in illegal land deals will be treated as criminals and will face the wrath of the law. Mr Muchima has set the right tone because land is not a matter to be dealt with lightly. Land is the essence of liberation. That is what Zambians collectively fought for in the liberation struggle. Every Zambian, therefore, deserves a piece of it. This pronouncement, therefore, is of significant importance – to rein in the political cadre illegal allocation of land. Culprits should indeed be sent to jail as a deterrent so that cadres will stay away from this malpractice. The warning by the minister should help bring sanity in land administration. Only institutions mandated by the law should be involved in allocating land. The local authorities too should be vigilant in the management of land in their respective jurisdictions. They should not wait until people complete construction of their houses before moving in with their demolition vehicles. Some people believe they buy pieces of land through genuine processes especially when documentation shows date stamps and signatures of authorities. They spend their hard-earned money on developing the land, only to lose everything. Ignorance is no defence, but surely such pain and grief can be avoided by the authorities also play their part in being vigilant. Some people within councils could be involved in these scams, so it is important that the councils keep a close watch on all the land and quickly question any development that is unauthorised. Instead of resorting to criminality, cadres can do better by coming together and form cooperatives, register them and become legalised land agents on behalf of either Government through the Ministry of Lands or local authorities or indeed traditional leaders and earn genuine income.
The rule of law should prevail in land administration to protect investors in this sector.