Land wrangles

The government must deal with land issues more decisively to stem the growing and pervasive fraud, theft and illegal alienation of land in the country. 

Quite apart from the highly publicised land invasions by party cadres in Lusaka, the situation in other parts of the country is the same and sadly customary land has become subject of highly acrimonious exchanges between chiefs who are apportioning and selling land and their subjects who have little or no control of the same.

It has become apparent that in the absence of real time policy to control and regulate land alienation any individual or institution exercising a modicum of authority has indulged in land alienation.

The ministry of lands does not offer any comfort because cases of fraud, double or even triple allocation are common.  The Lands Tribunal is replete with cases where officers have manipulated records in order to sell land to different people without following the legal procedures.

There have been heart wrenching stories of widows and orphans being evicted from homes because the land has been irregularly alienated.

It is therefore gratifying that the Minister of Home Affairs Dr. Ngosa Simbyakula and his colleague at lands have mooted the establishment of a Task Force to control and prevent illegal land allocation in Lusaka, currently being championed by party cadres.

We are also gratified that Deputy Minister Gerry Chanda has acknowledged that the land issue has been exacerbated by overt interests by law enforcement agents who are not only participating but actively encouraging so called cadres to invade and expropriate land from legitimate title holders.

We are also aware of pending cases in courts of law and other fora in which the police are involved in land wangles with villagers and settlers.

Our advice is for government to undertake an immediate land audit and put in place an equitable land alienation system that will not give too much power to any one group or individuals that may disadvantage others.

Such policy must regulate the manner in which any land including customary land will be alienated in an equitable manner that ensures that all will have enough land before any excess is disposed to outsiders.

The situation in Chipata where villagers are being evicted to give way to an investor who has now secured title is untenable and an offence against humanity.  No traditional authority should be allowed to uproot and evict villagers in order to give way to the highest bidders.  Land is an inalienable right bequeathed to all citizens regardless of status and place in life.

An ordinary villager in Chipata has as much right to own and farm land on which he can graze his animals without perpetually worrying about the technicalities of title deeds, which is alien to most villagers.

Those in the know should not take advantage of villagers just as those close to political power should not take advantage of citizens who are  intimidated on account of their powerlessness because of their distance from political power.