Change land administration legislation

Mwape MusondaBy Mwape Musonda

In October 2014 we published an article with the header should ‘Zambian land be for Zambians? In this piece we highlighted the importance of land as a resource which an individual can ever possess because of its potential to bring material benefits when exploited.

We raised our concern on how the laws that govern land distribution were giving competitive advantage to foreign nationals in this country as opposed to its citizens because of their porosity.

By then non-Zambian residents only needed to have stayed in the country for a period of more than one year or register a company with no less than 75% Zambian shareholding and a few other provisions for them to acquire land.

Our bone of contention here was that there was need to increase the number of control measures guiding land distribution. We advocated for the review of the tenure of lease of land given to foreign nationals as well as companies.

Of course this was the time when the constitution amendment process was still ongoing and a report from the parliamentary committee which was tasked to establish the laws governing lands, environment and tourism administration in the country in stated that there was no Land Policy.

The report further revealed that there was only a draft Land Policy whose process of approval would only be finalized after the amendment of the constitution.

The constitution amendment process was completed on the memorable day of 5th January 2016 when the president of this country assented the amendment bill at Lusaka’s Heroes stadium and the question we are asking today is have we resumed the process of formulating the Land policy?

We believe that the importance of land ownership cannot be over emphasized as far as personal and national development are concerned as such its administration should be done in the most transparent manner and in favor of our country’s citizens as opposed foreigners.

Just last week government received the 27 commercial farmers from South Africa who are prospecting to invest in our agriculture sector.  This news has excited most of us who have been calling for practical steps from government in engaging the private sector in the quest of diversifying our economy to agriculture from the export of blisters of copper cathodes.

Our country has got the best climate, soils and 40% of the water bodies hosted in southern Africa. These conditions are ideal to make us the food basket of Africa and yet agro-economic diversification has just been paid lip service for last 50 years of our independence.

According to the statistics at the ministry of lands and environmental protection, Zambia’s total surface land area is in excess of 75 million hectares. All of this land can be used to drive various social economic development activities that can enhance our livelihood.

The current usage is that out of the total land area 47 percent can be used for agriculture activities but only 14 percent is being cultivated. As far as the country’s urban development is concerned only 2 percent of the country’s total land has been utilized so far.

The remaining portions are occupied by water, hills, forests and national game management areas which can also be utilized to provide the benefits to the nation.

Government assured us that the 27 farmers from South Africa are coming to invest in our country using acceptable and modern models of farming that incorporates and integrates local communities in growing small and medium scale farmers.

Yes we want their technology for the development of the agro processing industry, finances and their experience to develop our country so that we can start producing food for all of our neighboring countries as opposed to the current status quo where we are only producing enough to feed ourselves.

But what we are saying is that there is an urgent need to stiffen up the laws that guide land demarcation especially the tenure of ownership because if we get carried away with the prospects of what these investors are bringing  we might end giving away all of our arable land for nothing.

These investors are coming for nothing but to make profits and so government should also ensure that this country also gets a fair share of the deal. If possible we lets have laws that will compel all investors partner with indigenous Zambians in their business for them to have access to land so that the investors get to provide the monetary capital and locals provide land.

We are of the view that the privilege of administering land also comes with the responsibility to preserve it for the future generations and so government needs to expedite the process of formulating the land policy so that our country does not give away its most priceless resource for nothing but a pinch of salt to foreigners.

The author is a Humanism activist and a member of ZICA

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