World Bank; farmers

Chiefdom land sale sparks national outrage in Zambia

The controversial sale of land covering an entire chiefdom – while displacing smallholder farmers – has sparked a national outrage in Zambia.

Zambians took to social media and radio to denounce the sale, describing it as the epitome of greed. Minister of Lands Jean Kapata was not spared as the sale happened on her watch. The minister has vowed to investigate the matter.

“The government should do the right thing and revoke the transaction,” Harrison Musonda posted on Facebook.

Howard Chisya also posted: “This shows the height of greed among traditional leaders. And where is the government when chiefs are crooking their poor subjects.”

Other organisations, including the land rights group Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA), were unanimous in urging government to thoroughly investigate the sale. They asked how the deal was processed through the ministry of lands without the department picking up the so-called anomaly.

The chief of Mumbwa district in Central Province displaced nearly 1 000 smallholder farmers after he sold a huge chunk of land to a foreign investor.

Included in the sale was the area occupied by his palace, as well as 26 villages.

The chief allegedly bought himself a fleet of luxurious vehicles and several properties in other provinces.

The customary land tenure system empowers traditional leaders to give out land up to 250 hectares – but this is subject to meeting conditions set by the ministry of lands and the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA). Statutory land is administered by the ministry of lands and local councils.

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