Zambia: Land Ownership Debate Hots Up

HEATED and protracted debate yesterday characterised proceedings at the National Constitution Convention in Lusaka as delegates deliberated on the issue of land ownership.

A number of delegates demanded that land should not be recklessly sold to foreigners because it belonged to Zambians.

Mr Edwin Zulu, a politician, submitted to the plenary session chaired by Ms Lillian Kapulu who is former Education permanent secretary that land should not be shared with foreigners.

"Land is an emotive issue that can easily be abused by the President and traditional leaders. So let's put it very clear in our Constitution that land belongs to Zambians," he said.

Another delegate Salome Mwananshiku in supporting Mr Zulu said some people with money were getting all the land at the expense of poor Zambians, adding that land belonged to Zambians and it should be given to them.

Others wondered how land at the source of the Zambezi River could be sold to investors involved in mining.

A parliamentarian, Request Muntanga, when debating Article 295 with a proposal to relegate Articles 296 and 296 that gives definitions of Customary and State land, said removing the two articles from the Constitution would only spell doom because Zambians would not know what State and Customary land were.

"This is the first time we are having land in the Constitution and you want us to remove the important definitions. These two articles cannot be removed," Mr Muntanga said.

A clergyman, Reverend Alfred Masupa said the two Articles as enshrined in the first draft Constitution should be retained but with some amendments.

Chief Chipepo of Southern Province sent the gathering into laughter when he said he was contributing not only as a delegate but also as a prophet sent to deliver Zambians from being exploited.

"I was based in South Africa and there is no way in that country a foreigner can buy land on title. In 1957, people in my chiefdom were displaced due to Lake Kariba. Our land has finished in Zambia because it is being sold through corruption," he said.

The two articles were eventually retained as provided in the draft Constitution but with some amendments.

Lands Minister Wylbur Simuusa also urged delegates to be careful when voting on Article 296 (1) (d) on land on or under which minerals, gas and mineral oils were found, saying both the minerals and the land belonged to the State.

Dr Katele Kalumba, an Induna from Luapula Province, submitted that it was sad how chiefdoms were being displaced by foreigners who were buying huge chunks of land.

After a lot of heckling, interjections and points of order, the matter on whether 296 (1) (f) should be deleted, the matter went to a vote and the clause was retained.

The convention retained articles 302 to 305 on environment and natural resources, though, with some amendments.

On Wednesday, the delegates retained Article 214 but with amendments that councillors under local government should receive appropriate emoluments rather than allowances and that the minimum age for one to stand as a councillor should be increased from the current 18 to 21.

The convention also retained Article 253 on review of pensions for public service workers, though with amendments.

Article 267 in the draft Constitution was rejected and replaced with Article 101 of the current Constitution with additions such as the Zambia Prisons Service should be called the Zambia Prisons and Correctional Service.

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