Tuesday, June 18, 2024

CEJ warns investors of illegal customary land transactions in Sinazongwe District

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Investing in customary land in Sinazongwe District, Southern Province, without the endorsement of the sitting chief or chieftainess is illegal, according to the Centre for Environment Justice (CEJ). CEJ Executive Director Maggie Mwape praised the Sinazongwe Town Council for refusing to process documents for title deeds on behalf of the Ministry of Lands, as the Chiefs Act Chapter 287 of the Laws of Zambia only permits the sitting chief to legally sign customary land deals.

Mwape expressed concern over the exploitation of community land rights and rampant mineral exploration in the district due to the absence of sitting chiefs and the unresolved succession disputes in both chiefdoms. She stated, “Not having sitting chiefs in Sinazongwe who also expected to be part of the investment negotiating process has led to exploitation of community land rights and rampant mineral exploration.”

She also spoke out against investors relocating villagers and graves without completing the proper customary land transactions. Mwape said, “I was disturbed to learn that some investors were relocating villagers and their graves in Sinazongwe when the due process of customary land transactions were incomplete.”

Mwape emphasized the importance of traditional leadership in the administration of customary land and disclosed that CEJ has been working in Sinazongwe District with support from Bread for the World of Germany since 2018. In December 2022, CEJ launched a three-year project called Resilient Initiatives for Sustainable Environment (RISE) in Sinazongwe and Serenje Districts, also with support from BftW.

The CEJ Executive Director’s statements were made during a multi-stakeholder meeting coinciding with the official opening of the Centre for Environment Justice office in Sinazongwe District. Mwape said, “Traditional leadership has a critical role in the administration of customary land.” The goal of the CEJ is to protect communal land and ensure that the due process of customary law is followed. Mwape added, “The CEJ Executive Director therefore, prayed for the quick resolution of succession disputes in both chiefdoms in order to ensure that the due process of customary law is followed to protect communal land.”

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