Friday, January 11, 2008


Zambia: Land law is a set-back to the dark ages
The Land Act is causing millions of Zambians to be deprived of land and livelihood without any form of compensation. Its another apartheid, says an outspoken Zambian land activist, in her personal comment to the situation.
By Lucy Sichone

01. October 1998

Colonialism and imperialism were imposed on Africa and Zambia by the introduction and enforcement of a land law that robbed indigenous peoples of their birthright. The land was vested in a Monarch across the seas who in turn gave it away to her (white) subjects by way of title deeds. This system of land tenure was completely alien to the African way of life. The exclusive properties of private ownership were at variance with and destructive of communal and family life as it existed in the colonies.

In fact, the only way in which this land grabbing could be enforced was through the introduction of "pass" laws in various forms. They prohibited the access to traditional lands by the birthright owners and condemned the indigenous people to live in overcrowded "squatter reserves" to which the private land tenure system did not extend.

The colonialists used private titles to benefit only themselves; it was never intended to benefit the owners of the land for development or any other purpose.

Nationalism and the war to reclaim the land were a natural consequence of this forcible deprivation of land.

Pressure from the World Bank

In Zambia, the war to liberate the land from colonialism was not as protracted and violent as say the Mau Mau liberation war in Kenya. This was because Zambia, unlike Kenya or Zimbabwe, was not a settler colony. The then Northern Rhodesia was almost wholly (90 %) reserved for the "natives who continued with the communal system of land tenure based on the place of birth.

The traditional land tenure was protected by law from settlers, investors and speculators by the provision that excluded private title in what were designated native reserves and trust lands or merely reserves and fast lands after independence.

These colonial laws, which reserved land for Zambians, continued in existence after independence up until September 1995. At that time - and against massive resistance from churches, NGO´s, chiefs and ordinary Zambians - a land law was introduced at the behest of the World Bank that set back the Zambian people to the dark ages experienced at the height of the scramble for Africa.

No compensation to displaced Zambians

John Todd, until 1997 the World Bank representative to Zambia, had the arrogance to attempt a defense of the land law on the basis that it was written for Zambia by a Boer, Peter Moll - now a World Bank consultant whose main brief appears to be one of writing the laws that made Apartheid "successful" for three hundred years in banana republics like Zambia.

Hence the main provision of the Act deprives 80 % of the Zambian poor of their inalienable right to land - a birthright guarantee - and vests it in a banana president for purposes of accommodating the second great trek of those who have lost their immoral benefits under apartheid.

Just like under apartheid, Zambians now stand to lose land without compensation.

Zambia’s Investment Center - a creation and stooge of the World Bank - has been negotiating with the so-called South African Farmers Association (all white) t bring into the country hundreds of Boers to build lagers on huge tracts of Zambian land.

Like the original laagers - fortresses built by te first Boer trekkers to protect themselves from hostile natives - the new laagers is displacing millions of Zambians. Especially the 80 % poor are rendered landless peasants, homeless without any form of shelter and without livelihoods to the same extent as existed in Brazil or indeed South Africa. The displaced Zambians are given no compensation.

Titles liquidate entire life style

The Land Act of ´95 has achieved this theft by taking away the traditional title to land by abolishing the protecting laws and vesting the sole ownership of land into the President. In other words titles have not been issued to the chiefs or people living in the villages, so their land is predicated as squatters settlements or merely "vacant".

Thus, although the Land Act has put a monetary value on land, the money paid by the so called investors does not go to compensate, resettle or rehabilitate the villagers. The purchase price is paid to the owner of the entire Zambian land mass - the President.

The requirement of title has deprived access to ownership of land that every Zambian used to enjoy under customary tenure by virtue of birth and regardless of economic or social status.

Furthermore, customary tenure had the objective of communal sharing of land. Land for subsistence farming normally did not exceed 25 hectares per person, and pastoral land was owned by the community for all the members to use. Titles to communal, pastoral lands by an individual is be cost effective, it means the liquidation of an entire way of life, a death sentence for both the people and their livestock.

It is for this reason that Zambians are resisting and indeed fighting the Land Act in the same way that the liberation wars were born, pursued and brought to successful conclusion.

Resistance paid off

300 kilometers south of Lusaka, In Choma, Chief Singanis area of 40.000 hectares (the size of some Western European countries) was privatized. The new Boer owner took possession of the land (with a court order) by the simple act of burning the shelters and harvest of over 400 families who held traditional titles to the land.

The villagers have since "liberated" the land, they have rebuilt their homes and replanted their fields. The investor, in the interest of preserving his life and limb, has gone back to where he came from and put back his land on the market. So far, no one else has shown interest.

Zambians will not wait for 200 years to reclaim their land. It will be done now. The World Bank should take note.

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