Zambian chiefs yesterday walked out of a crucial consultative meeting, protesting a proposed revised land law stripping them of powers to administer customary land.
Lands Minister Jean Kapata said she was surprised by the decision of the chiefs to reject the draft law after exhaustive consultations with them.
“The revised Land Act does not enshrine the powers of the chiefs to administer customary law, including the issuing of title so that there is security in the land acquired in traditional areas,” said Chief Ngabwa.
Ngabwa, who is also leader of the House of Chiefs, said their input into the revised law had been manipulated by technocrats in the Ministry of Lands. “We gave detailed input, but it is not reflected in the draft law. This, we believe, is deliberate by civil servants,” he said.
The existing Land Act of 1995 provides that land may be administered under statutory tenure, where land is administered government, and customary tenure, where traditional authorities administer land by customary laws. While customary land is more easily available to many poor and vulnerable groups of society, it is not well documented and boundaries between chiefdoms and individual customary landholders are unclear.
Therefore, customary tenure is viewed to be insecure for long-term investment, which is an impediment to securing the nation’s development and related food security.
The walkout by the traditional leaders created a general sense of unpredictability about the form the new land law will take, especially in improving land tenure security and transparency in land acquisition.