Land Act needs revision


AS IF the video by the Human Rights Watch exposing the displacement of local communities by some investors in Serenje was not enough, Bwana Mkubwa member of Parliament Jonas Chanda last week encountered first-hand experience in Twashuka and Chichele wards of his constituency in Ndola.

Dr Chanda was enraged that some foreigners, who are mere shop owners, ‘bought’ land in excess of 60 hectares, evicting over 800 Zambian citizens who have lived there for years without compensation.
Dr Chanda’s verdict is that the 1995 Land Act is weak.
He says it has been a source of chaos and corruption in the allocation of land.
The Bwana Mkubwa lawmaker cannot simply comprehend that any foreign national can just arrive in the country “at the back of a truck or in a container and straightaway own huge tracts of land at the expense of Zambians”.
In Serenje district, Central Province, local people have been evicted into destitution by some investors.
The situation in Serenje and Bwana Mkubwa could be a reflection of a countrywide simmering scenario. It is unbecoming.
Perhaps, it is not just the Land Act of 1995 which is weak.
We should also be blaming corruption in the allocation of land because the innocent foreigners and investors do not even know that this country has a Land Act.
Let us not blame the State or the laws and complacency on the part of our civil servants or those in local authorities, whose task is to inspect proposed portions being applied for before endorsing the plans.
I will not blame the surveyors – both from Government or private sector – because they are just foot soldiers.
For traditional land, where the biggest gap is, the process starts at local level, i.e. from the headman/woman, then the chief. It is only after the chief has endorsed that the local authority sits and just rubber-stamps the allocation, which is then submitted to the Ministry of Lands, which in turn gives out the offer and title deed.
In all these processes, there is very little scrutiny. The locals, whose land is proposed for re-allocation to investors, are not consulted in many cases.
The local authorities endorse what the area chief has authorised as long as it is within 250 hectares without checking who is affected.
The ministry will issue the offer and title as recommended by the local authorities.
That is why Dr Chanda is fuming and now wants the Land Act, which was amended during the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) era revised like yesterday.
Dr Chanda is not alone in this advocacy as President Lungu has also voiced his concern over the wanton sale of land by our chiefs.
The issue of land is not just contentious in Zambia but resonates across the African continent.
The African Union has made a declaration on land issues and challenges in Africa.
The Land Policy in Africa Conference taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is being held under the theme ‘The Africa we want: Achieving socio-economic transformation through inclusive and equitable access to land by the youth’.
This theme supports the declaration of 2017 by the African Union as the Year of Youth under the theme ‘Harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend through investment in youth’.
The Land Policy in Africa Conference is coming on the heels of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) dialogue on land governance also held in Addis Ababa on Thursday with participants urging member States to use the platform to share experiences and challenges related to effective land administration in the region.
Participants from various African countries, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Africa Union Commission (AUC) and representatives of donor agencies, agreed that member states should look for local solutions to Africa’s land challenges using local experts and exploring synergies with research and training institutions.
In their outcome document, they said Africa’s socio-economic development is anchored on the land and, therefore, the resource should be properly managed.
They urged countries in the region to explore approaches to establish national multi-stakeholder platforms that will feed into the regional dialogues; explore the gaining of political commitment to support land issues within the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) for increased financing.
Member states should also identify their educational needs that can be addressed within the Strengthening Capacities for Land Governance in Africa (SLGA) and lining them to the Networks of Excellence, they agreed.
Frank Byamugisha, a land expert with the World Bank, says land governance is the process by which decisions are made regarding the access to and use of land, the manner in which those decisions are implemented and the way that conflicting interests in land are reconciled.
IGAD countries were also urged to explore how best to assemble national resources to address land challenges at country level. Participants also agreed that reliance on development partners also needs to be reduced.
Peter Sidler of the Swiss Co-operation Office said: “We are very happy that the inaugural dialogue was such a success. What a perfect and fruitful start! Now we are looking forward to the next dialogue and hope this will inspire other RECs to live up to the AU’s call to have these periodic regional platforms to facilitate experience sharing, dissemination of best practices in land policy formulation, implementation and monitoring and related issues.”
Mohamed Moussa, director of Agriculture and Environment Division at IGAD, was elated that dialogue was successful, adding that there will be many such dialogues in the future.
“This was an interesting first step which can pave the way for more successful dialogues in the future,” he said, adding that the wave of land governance reforms in the region needs to be supported by finding new ways of doing business and learning from each other, thereby increasing efficiency in managing change and also amplifying the impact of the reforms.
The purpose of the dialogue was to create an enabling dialogue environment for member states, regional institutions, development partners, CSOs, private sector and other stakeholders to learn from each other and identify possible areas of collaboration and convergence in taking forward the land policy reform agenda at country and regional level.
The dialogue focused on pathways in land administration in the IGAD region in response to the AU Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges in Africa.
Therefore, as our political leaders seek to revise the 1995 Land Act, they have several platforms to fall back on knowledge generation and sharing, as well as on land policy development, implementation and monitoring.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.

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