THE Land Tribunal is toothless and has failed to stamp out corruption which is currently endemic in land administration , the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Affairs, Energy and Labour heard yesterday.
And the Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA) has opposed the Lands Amendment Bill No .24 of 2015.
ZLA executive director Nsama Chikolwa demanded that Government must withdraw the Bill and focus on concluding the process of putting in place a comprehensive land policy.
Ms Chikolwa said the amendment of the Lands Act as proposed by the Bill would not address the critical issues of concern, including the need to improve revenue generation for effective land development purposes.
“The Lands Act and other pieces of legislation that have an implication on land administration are not in harmony, this is fundamentally because of the lack of a supportive policy to which they should be aligned,” she said.
Ms Chikolwa said the current Lands Act had weakened legal recognition of customary tenure.
“Currently, customary land rights are hard to enforce. According to the law, conversion of customary tenure to leasehold is not reversible, implying that the policy is to extinguish customary rights to land,” she said.
Ms Chikolwa said once the national land policy was put in place, it should do away with the necessity by making customary land rights equal in status to leasehold rights on State land and enforceable in law.
“The restriction of below the surface land rights under leasehold is understandable. However for land under customary tenure, this power by the State requires regulations because the State does not own that land that is held by customary rights.
‘‘This should be clarified so that the discovery of minerals should not automatically cause extinction of customary land rights,” Ms Chikolwa said.
She said Government had constantly prioritized the interests of investors and businesses at the expense of the welfare of the majority of its poor citizens.
Ms Chikolwa said such tendencies must be stopped.
She said Zambia needed to effectively strengthen the administration of land services.
“This should be done before drastic revenue generation measures such as the ones proposed in the Land Amendment Act of 2015 are put in place as they risk backfiring and throwing more Zambians into poverty, destitution and early death,” she said. Ms Chikolwa said Government needed to mobilize funding and invoke the necessary procedure to decentralize the functions of the Commissioner and Registrar of Lands, adding that it should be short to medium term.
She said the Lands Act and other supporting legislation should give recognition to village and other parallel structures to make them part of the formal system of land administration. Ms Chikolwa said councils should be empowered with the necessary knowledge and skills on land alienation.
“Our proposal is that enacting the Land Amendment Bill of 2015 into law in its proposed format is taking the easy way out. Government needs to comprehensively review all systems and processes and asses which areas would be ideal to revenue generation without compromising the ability of Zambians to subsist from their land and making access to land even more difficult for the majority of Zambians,”
And the Indaba Agriculture Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) executive director Chance Kabaghe submitted before the same committee that the Act lacked transparency in the process of awarding titles at the traditional authority level.
He observed that the Bill lacked mechanism to enable existing smallholder farmers to alienate land and few mechanisms for them to protect their existing customary rights from appropriation by the traditional authorities (chiefs).