PRESIDENT Lungu yesterday encountered the ire of chiefs who are totally opposed to Article 296 in the Draft Constitution which reposes land in the President.
The article reads, “Land is vested in the President and held by the President in trust for, and on behalf of the people of Zambia”. The Article adds that land shall be administered and controlled for the common benefit of the people of Zambia and classified as State land, customary land and other such classification as prescribed.
Then it goes on to say that the President may through the Land Commission alienate land to citizens and non-citizens as prescribed.
The chiefs who met the President yesterday made it very clear that they were not in favour of this particular proposal because it virtually emasculated their present status with regard to the management of land in the country.
The present arrangement simply classifies in customary and State land, giving the chiefs autonomy over land they control for which they are virtually unaccountable.
The new proposal read in conjunction with proposed Article 295 provides that land will be held, used and managed in accordance with a number of universal principles that ensure equity of access, security of tenure and recognition of indigenous cultural rights.
However, these provisions have not impressed the chiefs who feel that the President might alienate land to developers and investors to the exclusion of their own people.
At the same time it has become obvious and many chiefs have admitted that the current land alienation practices among chiefs leaves a lot to be desired because some chiefs have given away huge tracts of land to so-called foreign investors to the exclusion of their own villagers and residents.
There are many cases now, where villagers are virtually refugees in their own villages which have been given away to titled investors.
There is also the insidious practice of briefcase land purveyors who deal in speculation by conniving with those at the Ministry of Lands and the Councils to parcel out land.
The two positions, between the President holding land and the chiefs holding their own land, must somehow be harmonised to ensure that a viable, workable and user friendly land acquisition system is put in place to satisfy the needs of the Zambian people.
There is no question that abuses are rampant in the manner chiefs are allocating land as well as in the manner State land has been parceled out.
Therefore a common ground reached through dialogue and consensus-building must be arrived at before the Constitution is finally passed.
The suggestion that the referendum is the wherewithal is not only flawed but highly irresponsible because it disregards the final content of the document that will pass for the Constitution of this republic.
This document must be comprehensive, thorough and serve as a legitimate expression of the will of the Zambian people where the chiefs, the State and ordinary people can speak with one mind and in one accord. No such document exists as of now and to jump the gun and begin politicking about the referendum is a misplacement and abuse of the democratic process.