Zambian chief sells entire chiefdom, displaces smallholder farmers

A Zambian chief of Central province has potentially displaced nearly 1000 smallholder farmers after he allegedly sold a large piece of land to a foreign investor.

The controversial land sale has drawn a sharp reaction from lands minister Jean Kapata who has vowed to investigate the matter.

Local media are reporting the controversial sale covered the entire chiefdom of the Mumbwa district-based chief, including his palace and 26 villages.

The reports, quoting headmen of affected villages, said the chief had acquired himself a fleet of luxurious vehicles and properties in other provinces. The claims were corroborated by the Catholic Church that owns a mission school on the land that had been sold.

“Close to a thousand smallholder farmers are now stranded,” said Francis Mvula, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace senior paralegal officer.

Mvula said the Catholic Church owns part of the land in the chiefdom where it has built a mission school to cater for the needs of the local population.

Zambia had a duo land tenure system; Statutory land being administered in accordance with the written law by government officials while customary land by traditional authorities using unwritten and local customs. This arrangement made it easier to acquire customary land through traditional leaders. However, the land acquired was unsecured for long-term investment and not titled.

President Edgar Lungu recently lamented the greed being exhibited by traditional leaders who were selling large tracts of land to foreigners. He said the trend needed to be checked by limiting foreign land ownership.

Non-governmental organisations, church groups and political parties were lobbying for reviewing of the land law to ensure the majority of land ownership was in Zambian hands.

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