The Southern Africa Litigation Centre is working with Zambia Land Alliance in assisting community members (“Plaintiffs”) of Mugoto Settlement, Chikankata District, in challenging the decision of the new Chikankata District Council’s taking over individual farms and the grazing land of a community of 4429 people without following the legal and constitutional procedures more specifically the compulsory acquisition of land without compensation.
In 1972, the then President of the Republic of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, constituted a commission named the Sakala Commission, which was tasked with, among other things, exploring the land in the Southern province and assessing the issues of unequal distribution of land in the region including if there was any bare land available. After four years of investigations, the Sakala Commission reported that no empty land was available in the Southern province but only land held by white settlers who had since left the country and had become absentee landlords. Regarding recommendations, the Sakala Commission recommended the government, among other things, consider repossessing farms left by absentee landlords living outside the country.
Following the recommendations, the government decided to subdivide the land of the absentee landlords from Magoye to the whole of the Southern province in 1976. The government, through the authorised Ministry and the Mazabuka Municipality Council, offered to the public the subdivisions to purchase. The government only provided the land on the condition that it would be used for agriculture. The Mugoto Settlement was part of Farm 106, the absentee landlords’ property. Farm 106 was repossessed by the state, surveyed, and subdivided and offered to 299 successful community members to establish farms and grazing land to satisfy food security needs.
Subsequently, a meeting was held on 28 March 2002 where the Mazabuka Municipal Council and other members present in the meeting resolved that the 229 settlers in Mugoto Settlement, some of which are Plaintiffs in this case, be offered titled teed. After some time, the 229 settlers learnt that the state, specifically the newly established Chikankata District Council, was planning on building a town and Civic Centre in Mugoto Settlement. On 28 August 2013, the settlers after months of trying to convince the state and the newly established Chikankata District Council not to build a town or Civic centre on their land, the Council Secretary told them that the developments were going to take place in their land, whether they like it or not.
Upon consulting the area chief on 13 September 2013, the settlers learnt that the Chief was never consulted or updated on these new developments. On 14 September, the settlers watched helplessly as large commercial mobile machines moved into the settlement and began grading, levelling and other activities whilst surveyors pegged re-demarcated plots and other construction works were carried out on their grazing land. On 2 October 2013, the settlers sent a demand letter to the Chikankata District Council asking them to halt the construction works on their land within three days or risk facing legal proceedings. The letter was ignored, and the construction work continued.
In the High Court
On 14 November 2013, members of the affected community commenced proceedings in the High Court challenging the Council’s action. The community specifically asked the Court to issue some of the following orders:
- An order that the Chikankata District Council cannot displace them from the land which has already been allocated to them and surveyed, awaiting issuance of Title deeds
- An order that the intended evictions and demolitions of their properties were wrongful and unlawful.
- An order for compensation for the loss of grazing land and demolition of their properties
- An order for damages for unlawful and wrongful acquisition and use of land
- An order for damages for trespass and unlawful encroachment on the Mugoto Settlement
On 28 September 2017, the High Court of Zambia granted an interim injunction in the case and found that the settlers have a clear claim to be determined at trial. The Court restrained the Chikankata District Council and its servants or agents from interfering, fencing off, harassing, evicting, displacing, developing or illegally taking possession of Farm 106, Chikankata District, Southern Province, forming part of the Mugoto Settlement, or in any way dealing with the property pending the final determination of the matter or further order of the Court.
In the Court of Appeal
After a lengthy trial in 2019, the High Court delivered a partially favourable judgment on 21 May 2020. The community was, however, dissatisfied with some parts of the decision and appealed the case. We are therefore awaiting the appeal hearing date.