Chiefs push back against title exercise on traditional lands

Planned land reforms by government, as part of the long-term goal to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy, have invoked the anger of traditional leaders.

In its 2017 budget, government announced a nationwide exercise of titling under the National Land Titling Programme (NLTP) aimed at improving land tenure security, increasing transparency in land acquisition and enhancing revenue collection. The NLTP would be conducted alongside the National Land Audit Programme (NLAP) aimed at taking stock of all land and its use.

However, intense opposition from traditional leaders may force government to back down from some aspects of the titling and stock-taking audit of land nationwide.

On a post-budget tour of Western Province, where almost 80% of the land is under traditional jurisdiction, finance minister Felix Mutati, said traditional lands would not be part of the titling exercise.

The 1995 Lands Act vests all land in the hands of the president, for and on behalf of the Zambian people. It provides for the administration under two tenure systems: statutory and customary tenure. Statutory land is administered in accordance with written laws, by government officials, customary land is administered by traditional authorities using unwritten and localised customary laws.

While customary land is more easily available to the poor and vulnerable groups of society, the boundaries between the chiefs and individual customary landholders are not clear. Therefore, customary tenure has been viewed as insecure for long-term investment, something seen as an impediment to securing the nation’s development and related food security.
However, traditional leaders are determined to maintain the current status quo.

“I would not be a chief if I didn’t have land. It is the land that makes chiefdoms,” said a Lusaka Province chief who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Scores of headmen interviewed in Kafue and Chilanga, districts south of the capital Lusaka, echoed his sentiments

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