By Henry Kanyanta Sosala
The above is the law that deals with absentee landlords who may appear sometime later and claim land ownership with the cunning intention of gaining compensation on the idle land which they never developed. (Ba katyetye mwenda mwalimwa).
And in this case we must first look at our country’s land history. In accordance with the trade treaties signed by the British South African Company and which were later endorsed by the British government with traditional leaders, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) was a Protectorate. The British did not wage war to conquer the people of this country and therefore the whole landmass belonged to the local people.
The Northern Rhodesia (Crown Lands Reserves) Orders of 1928 created crown or state land which was 6% out of the total landmass for the white settlers. This, of course, left 94% for the local people. We must note that the 6% was land mainly covering the copper-belt since the British South African company was only interested in the mining of copper.
However, when the mines were opened in 1932, there was demand for the production of food to feed mostly the African population working on the mines and the related industries. And hence, this therefore attracted white South Africa farmers to come and grow maize. And they established their farms in central Province, which became known as maize-belt.
‘’I would like to hear what we have done to violate the agreement with Queen Victoria, that we should live under her and be given protection. We look upon Federation as a proposal to bar Africans from advancing in the administration of their own Government. My people will not, in any way accept Federation.’’
The Northern Rhodesia (Native Trust Land) Orders-in-Council of 1947 created Trust Land as a result of pressure from the white settlers who demanded security on the land they occupied. Trust Land constituted about 58%. This was actually an extension of crown or state land to 64% while the reserve land for the local people was reduced to 36%. There was, however, a provision for government to consult traditional leaders before land in the Trust Land was accessed for any purpose.
However, there was discontent among Africans for that development in the land policy. And in 1952 a delegation went to London to present a protest memorandum to Her Majesty’s Government which was led by His Royal Highness Paramount Chief Chitimukulu Musungu and which included His Royal Highness Senior Chief Musokotwane; Mr. Harry Nkumbula, President-General of the African National Congress; Mr. Robinson Nabulyato, Secretary-General of the African National Congress and Mr. Lawrence Chola Katilungu, President of the African Mine workers Union.
And here is part of the memorandum: ‘’The placing of the final decision in the hand of the Secretary of the State for Colonies has to the safe guarding of the land rights of the Africans is no security even under the Protectorate Government…..Section 5 (1) of the Northern Rhodesia (Native Trust Land) Order-in-Council of 1947 allows the government to grant rights of occupation in Native Trust Land to non-white and Order-in-council (Native Reserves) of 17th August 1951 allows the Governor to grant land to corporations in Native Reserves.
Provision is, however, made for the prior consultation of the Native Authorities in the case of Native Trust Land, but not in the case of Native Reserves. The African people of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) are much concerned about the safety of their land under the Protectorate Government. The laws which protected their land rights have been altered so as to make it possible for the Protectorate Government to alienate land.’’
His Royal Highness Paramount Chief Chitimukulu was interviewed by a journalist from Nottingham journal on 5th May, 1952: ‘’I would like to hear what we have done to violate the agreement with Queen Victoria, that we should live under her and be given protection. We look upon Federation as a proposal to bar Africans from advancing in the administration of their own Government. My people will not, in any way accept Federation.’’
After we attained our independence in 1964, the 58% of Trust Land was only in theory restored back to customary land i.e., to the original 94%. The point I must make clear is that after converting customary land to leasehold land, there is no provision to revert it back to customary land again. And hence it is gone forever. And so it was only the land that had not been converted to leasehold that was added to customary land and there are no statistics available so far to indicate the percentage of the actual physical land out of 58%, the Governor had allocated to corporations in Reserve Land. In other words, customary land only constituted to 94% from 1928 to 1946.
It is unfortunate we always hear even from officers at the Ministry of Lands claiming that customary land is 94% and I suppose it only requires minimal common sense to guess that customary land cannot be stagnant at 94% since 1928. In fact, the Lands and Deeds Registry Act 185 of 1996 edition was to establish accurate records for the proper transfer of ownership of lands. But this Act is so far defunct.
In fact, the white farmers bought those farms at 3 ngwee per acre, but when the new government wanted to buy the farms back, the owners demanded K100 per acre.
And stated earlier the white South African farmers had come to settle in Zambia, but they left the country just before we attained our independence since they could not accept to be ruled by Africans. However, their farms were on title and therefore the black government could not in anyway tamper with them since the white government had made laws to protect their interests i.e., there were clauses which barred the new government from taking over shops and the vast tracts of land of absentee ownership. In fact, the white farmers bought those farms at 3 ngwee per acre, but when the new government wanted to buy the farms back, the owners demanded K100 per acre.
But since the nationalists knew that it was their birthright land and unlike today when we are being pushed around by foreigners because we are being blinded by ‘’foolish democracy,’’ since our ears hitch for praise as ‘’good boys’’ maintaining ‘’democracy’’ from the capitalist-exploiters. For example the Daily Nation of 18th July 2017 came out with the headline: CHINESE DEFY MINISTER and story went on: ‘’Shumeite Investments limited, the Chinese firm erecting a four-storey building in Kalundu residential area has defied Lusaka Province Minister Japhet Mwakalombe and the National Council for Construction (NCC’s) directive to halt the project until construction procedures are followed..’’
The UNIP radicals led by Mr. Simon Kapwepwe launched a campaign towards the Referendum to end all referenda and to which the people consented in their votes of 17th June 1969. Thereafter was born a radicalized law which gave power to the Republican President under Lands (Acquisition) Act Cap 296 of the Laws of Zambia to compulsory acquire any land in the public interest. I must, however, make it clear that according to Professor Michelo Hansungule’s paper, Simplification of the 1995 Land Act stated in Article 7.15: .. there is no provision in the law for the President to compulsorily acquire customary land, the powers of acquisition can only be invoked for leasehold land….’’
This is how law dealt with the white absentee landlords and is applicable to anyone who abandons his undeveloped land. And it is only up to the legal team at the Ministry of Lands to prepare documents for the re-entry for the President to sign.