ZAMBIA: LONG-TERM RURAL RESIDENTS DECLARED SQUATTERS AND ORDERED TO VACATE THE LAND WITHOUT FAIR COMPENSATION

> WOMEN'S LAND AND PROPERTY RIGHTS, ACCESS TO JUSTICE, RULE OF LAW, ONGOING CASES > ZAMBIA, REGIONAL
Salc : Staff Writer

 SALC is currently collaborating with the Muchinda Royal Establishment and the Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA) to support an appeal challenging the decision of the Magistrate for the Serenje District, finding that land occupied by twelve families belongs to a commercial farmer because he was granted the land in question by the government in 2015. The court ordered that all twelve families and their dependents vacate the land or be evicted. The Magistrate further ordered each family be compensated ZMK 1,000.00 (approximately $100). The twelve families were dissatisfied with the decision and tried to lodge an appeal but were ordered to pay ZMK 4,000.00 ($400.00) before the appeal could be processed, an amount they failed to raise until January 2017.

According to the testimony by the commercial famer and officials from Serenje District Counsel and Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, government converted the land  from customary land to state land in the 1980s. However, the twelve families who were born on the land, some as early as the 1940s, were not aware of the conversion and were not consulted before the conversion. They first learned that their land had been converted in 2015 when they saw the commercial farmer and government officials demarcating the land.

The twelve families would like to retain what they consider their ancestral land. They are challenging the court ruling that they are squatters on the land they were born and inherited from their parents as per tradition. This has been identified as a problem by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food in her preliminary report on the situation in Zambia. The appellants are also challenging the procedure for converting customary land to state land without consulting resident-farmers as well as the court-ordered eviction without providing the families alternative land or fair compensation for their loss.