Plight of landless

The destruction of houses in the dead of night for what ever reason is un-acceptable.
This all the more reprehensible when the facts disclose that it is the custodians of the law, the police who undertake the exercise without any lawful authority.
The demolition of houses in Lusaka West was unlawful, indiscriminate and uncalled for considering that procedures exist to evict suspected invaders of land.
The Lusaka West situation is the more reprehensible because it was carried out by the Police in order to clear an area of land for senior police habitation. This is an abuse of the law that should not be allowed.
Similarly Government and the Ministry of Lands in particular appears deliberately negligent in allowing a situation where competing interests results in the destitution of the less powerful .
This is the case in Lusaka West where more than 30 families have been left homeless after Police demolished houses belonging to settlers accused of squatting on state land which has been assigned to senior police officers.
There is no doubt that the Government and Commissioner of Lands in particular  may have had good intentions of  providing land to senior police officers but clearly the manner in which this has been done leaves much to be desired.
First of all the land was no vacant. It was occupied by more than 33 families. These families have lived on the land for more than 20 years. They have constructed permanent structures.
Whether or not they should have constructed without authorization is another matter, but the reality is that more than 33 Zambian families had settled on this state land, which title and demarcation are only being finalized now.
These people are entitled, like any other person to secure a piece of land for their use. This is the same entitlement that the senior police officers have too.
The suggestion that those who have already settled on the land have any less entitlement to the land because they are not policemen begs the question. Police or not, they are Zambian.
That is why it is saddening the Ministry of Lands has allowed the two competing parties to confront each other without offering a viable alternative to either.
Naturally the senior Police officers have the muscle and influence which has not only led to the demolition of houses but burning of maize fields, the destruction of food.
The inertia and indecision by those who are charged with the responsibility of investigating such matters has led to needless suffering which would have been avoided if timely action had been taken to resolve a potentially explosive situation that has put senior police officers in very bad light.
We should not create a situation of conflict when reason and compromise could easily resolve what appears to be an insurmountable land crisis.
If need be the Commissioner must ensure that the available piece of land is demarcated in such a manner that all the contenting parties are accommodated. It will not do to completely deny people who have been living and farming an area totally without, and only to give way to people who qualify by virtue of office.
Equity and fairness must prevail in this matter. In this situation it is not simply a question of legality but also of morality, compassion and empathy.
We are yet to face a land crisis. What we are facing now is simply a poor land management system that has been compounded and to an extent compromised by political interference driven by fear.
Many people who land has been invaded by vigilantes have failed to seek redress because the Police appear apprehensive tackling any elements claiming ruling party connections.
Sense must prevail in this situation.

Categorized | Editorial

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