Zambia mulls land reform policy
By Jeff Kapembwa
LUSAKA – Zambia is reviewing the land policy to ensure effective management of the national asset is applied so as to avert the displacement of nationals in various settlements under the guise of direct foreign investment.
A Lands Bill is presently under discussion in country’s parliament. The bill seeks to ensure the interests of poor citizens who reside on and depend on customary land for a living are protected from both the privileged Zambians and foreigners.
The development, according to Lands Minister Jean Kapata, would ensure that women, mostly discriminated by a number of customary laws, were afforded equal access to land as any other persons.
Currently, foreigners are allowed to own large tracts of land in various parts of the country where they have set up farmlands and have, in turn, displaced the locals.
Kapata envisions that the finalisation of the bill into law will be completed by December this year after which the revised document will stiffen compliance to land lease obligations.
The revised law will ensure all land owners ensure they fulfill timely payment of ground rates and other fees, charges and will also make it difficult for foreigners to acquire land in the country unless under strict land regulations which will have the full consent of the law.
This will chiefly apply on land acquired and intended for investment in agriculture and other sectors. This is unlike presently where much land secured is left idle despite people acquiring it under various leases, including 99-year security of tenure yet leaving many nationals displaced.
Addressing lawmakers in Lusaka last week, Kapata said it was government’s desire to give preference to Zambians, unlike giving latitude to foreigners under the guise of investment and that it was time the majority poor, especially women and children, owned land with title.
“As government, we are determined to deliver a people-driven national land policy to guide in addressing a number of challenges that currently exist in land administration in the country,” Kapata stated during a debate parliament.
Presently, a committee tasked to review the Land Bill has started work in earnest with the identification of clauses to be amended and formulation of proposals to replace those that were impediments to desired goals and outcomes.
Government was determined to ensure the country had a land policy that would promote equitable access to land, promote security of tenure, especially for rural communities as well as sustainable utilisation of land, thereby promoting development.
Kapata regretted the delays in the review and finalisation of the land policy into law but said that great progress had been made to ensure the matter is redressed and ensure Zambians are given priority in land ownership.
“Mr Speaker, the consultation process had taken longer to allow the ministry to undertake in-depth and extensive consultations with various stakeholders whose interests were varied and complex. “Efforts had been made to align the policy with the Seventh National Development Plan, African Union Agenda 2063 and the Vision 2030 of Zambia becoming a middle income state,” he told parliament.
The bill, Kapata added, had been raised in parliament to allow lawmakers to participate in the development of the policy.
Plans are underway for a series of validation workshop, which would attract key stakeholders from across the country as part of government’s quest to ensure the matter is resolved with input from various stakeholders.
The ministry further seeks to work on the finalisation of the Customary Land Administration Bill in order to promote security of tenure on customary land. Recently, Kanyama constituency lawmaker, Elizabeth Phiri, warned against indiscriminate issuance of land to foreigners at the expense of Zambians.
She noted that land issues were sensitive and that subsequent displacements of nationals had been causes of upheaval globally.