Traditional leaders will retain their powers to administer customary land, said Zambian Lands Minister Jean Kapata.
Kapata’s statement in the House of Chiefs, a quasi-parliament for local traditional leaders, came amid simmering tensions between government and the chiefs over speculations that chiefs would be divested of their powers to administer customary land.
This was sparked by a land audit exercise that started in 2014, but had faced opposition from traditional leaders who viewed it as encroachment on their land administration powers.
“I want to assure the chiefs that they will continue to administer customary land. However, the revised land law would add more clarity on the function and process of traditional land administration,” Kapata said.
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The 1995 Lands Act puts all land in the hands of the President, for and on behalf of the Zambian people. It provides for administration under two tenure systems: statutory and customary tenure.
Statutory land is administered in accordance with written laws by government officials, while customary land is administered by traditional authorities using unwritten and local customary laws. However, the land acquired under customary law was unsecured for long-term investment and owners had no title to it.
Recently, traditional leaders faced mounting criticism for ceding vast tracts of land to foreigners at the expense of locals. The latest incident in which it was alleged that a Central Province chief had sold an entire chiefdom, including his palace and 26 villages, galvanised public interest into customary land administration.