LAND is an extremely emotive issue and unless well handled could be the source of serious social, economic and ultimately political conflict.
The situation in Lusaka does not bode well. Already lives have been lost because some Zambians have sought to assert their right to land without regard to the law. Ultimately they found themselves transgressing the law.
This has not stopped others from occupying what appears to be idle land but which land is obviously is encumbered and on title.
Progressively the demand for land is becoming a political issue. Dispossessed Zambians feel deprived in the face of huge tracts of land within the environs of Lusaka, while they are squeezed in unplanned settlements devoid of normal social services.
This obviously presents a moral dilemma to those in authority. It is dilemma that must be resolved quickly before more people take it upon themselves to claim their birthright at pain of breaking the law.
This has already happened in many parts of the city where residents supported by political functionaries have invaded titled land resulting in ugly confrontation with the Police who have sought to impose the rule of law.
Often this has succeeded but only for a while. What is immediately required is a long term solution that recognizes the exigencies of the moment and the possible solutions to avoid confrontation.
The most immediate solution is for the Government to acquire as much land as possible which is then subdivided into reasonable portions for residential purposes, especially for the poorer members of society.
The current situation where speculators and developers have bought huge tracts of land which they are selling at ridiculous prices is really not tenable. We have situation where bare land is now going for as much as US$75,000 for a plot that will be developed in another five years.
Such schemes are beyond the large majority of Zambians, meaning that only a small fraction will have access to the land and the subsequent development leaving the majority admiring and perhaps later angrily so at these development which bring profit to the foreign developers at the expense of the local people.
This scenario will inevitably end badly as we have seen in Zimbabwe and now South Africa.
Very serious thought and planning must be employed in creating better housing for all by creating overspill areas into which modern but affordable housing can be built for those in squatter townships that are an eyesore.
Properly planned and executed a modest housing empowerment scheme can serve thousands of residents currently living in intolerable circumstances.
Planning for such development should start now before large scale land invasions start when people lose ho pe and take the law into their own hands.