Chiefs still holding out as national land policy revision drags

Minister of Lands - Jean Kapata

The custodians for traditional land in Zambia, the chiefs who historically have control over 94% of land are still holding out and have in effect stalled the process of enactment of the revised national land policy. The consultation process which was initiated by government in 2015 is now dragging into the third year with no clear road map.

Lands Minister, Jean Kapata told parliament on June 13 that her ministry is yet to receive the final recommendations that the Chiefs follow up indaba brought out. “It is for this reason that as a ministry we await the House of Chiefs to officially communicate the recommendations that came out from the chiefs’ indaba so that the next steps can be implemented”, Kapata said.

Land in Zambia has become a highly politicized and emotive issue following reports of the scramble for land by mostly foreign investors, with some reports of a few chiefs who are said to be giving out huge tracks of land like confetti, causing worry of future depletion and foreign ownership.

Kapata stated that the chiefs rejected the national validation meeting held in February, 2018. At that time, the main reasons advanced by the chiefs for rejecting the document were that the draft document did not adequately provide for the roles of the chiefs in land administration and management.

The other reasons advanced by the Chiefs was that the document suggested that the powers of the chiefs were being taken away and that the invitation of twenty-two chiefs to the validation meeting was not adequate considering that there are 288 chiefs in total.

Land policy is a very complex matter that needs a sober approach. There is need to look at how the rural and village folks can also be given some form of protection for the land they occupy. At the moment, due to limited knowledge, the villagers are relocated from more fertile lands whenever their is an investor in a particular land some of which they have occupied for centuries.

Access to land also in Zambia is artificially difficult for locals who have limited economic muscle but the debate now is that foreign entities with the cash are taking up most of it. The country has large tracks which is not made available to citizens at affordable price points. There is need to look at how women, youths and vulnerable groups who have limited economic muscle can be given a route to land ownership with proper title.

Land is a factor of production and has inherent value as can be seen from the use of title deeds and land as collateral, hence this matter of revising the land policy need to be looked at from a perspective of the long term interest of the country and its people.

This revision of the land policy should not be about politicians wrestling land control and power from traditional leaders and chiefs, nor should it be about chiefs retaining power and control over land, no. It should be about the equitable distribution and long term collective interests of the country Zambia. Land is the single most important inheritance for the future generations.