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Zambia High Court grants and injunction in favour of displaced community

5 October 2017

On Thursday 28 September 2017, the High Court of Zambia, per Justice G.C. Chawatama granted an interim injunction in a case in which the Mugoto community (Plaintiffs) are challenging the Chikankata District Council (1st Defendant)’s taking over of their land. The community claims that they were allocated and have occupied and developed the land since 1979. The community is challenging the compulsory acquisition of their land without compensation.

The Court found that the Plaintiffs have a clear claim to be determined at trial and granted the Plaintiffs’ application for an injunction restraining the 1st Defendant 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.

The Plaintiffs are represented by Mr Clavel Sianondo of Malambo and Company and supported by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre in collaboration with the Zambia Land Alliance.

“Even though the main matter is yet to be determined, the Court’s intervention has provided huge relief to us” says one of the Applicants. “It has been extremely tormenting watching the construction of buildings in our backyards and on the communal grazing land.”

“We welcome the ruling of the High Court in this important matter” says Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. “While the matter is far from over, this injunction demonstrates that the Court can indeed be the last hope of justice for the poor and vulnerable communities when their rights are violated by institutions that ought to protect them.”

Background to case

 This case relates to a dispute over a piece of land within the Mugoto/Naluama Settlement Scheme which is near Ngega-Nega Turn Off in Chikankata District in the Southern Province of Zambia (disputed land). The dispute arose in 2013 when the 1st Defendant took possession of the disputed land for the purpose of establishing the Chikankata township and constructing the district administration offices. The Plaintiffs were allocated land under the Scheme in 1978, including communal grazing land. The Plaintiffs are among the 229 community members registered under the Scheme who were advised by the Mazabuka Municipal Council to apply for title deeds in order to register their pre-allocated land with the Lands and Deeds Registry of the Ministry of Lands. The Mazabuka Municipal Council approved the Plaintiffs’ application for title deeds in 2002. On 3 August 2004, the Town Clerk for Mazabuka Municipal Council forwarded the list of all 229 settlers, including Plaintiffs, together with their approved forms to the Commissioner of Lands, and recommended that they be issued with title deeds.

From the time the Plaintiffs and other community members occupied and started developing the disputed land until 2013, when the 1st Defendant took over the disputed land, no one challenged their rights and interests over the land.

Upon taking over of the disputed land, the 1st Defendant started constructing administration offices, staff houses, and a police station on the communal grazing land. In addition, the 1st Defendant sub-divided the Plaintiffs communal grazing land and residential areas into commercial and residential plots which were offered for sale to the public.

The 1st Defendant never consulted the Plaintiffs and has not made any undertaking to compensate them in any form. Instead, the 1st Defendant argues that no Plaintiff holds title, whether statutory, customary or otherwise to the disputed land. On 4 January 2016, the Attorney General, who is the 2nd Defendant, advised that from the information available regarding the matter, the Plaintiffs appear to be legitimately enjoying customary land rights over the disputed land and that they are entitled to be appropriately compensated if the disputed land was lawfully acquired in accordance with the Lands Acquisition Act. The Attorney General further advised that if the correct procedure was not followed for the compulsory acquisition of the disputed land, such acquisition was void and the Plaintiffs were entitled to continue enjoying the use of the land in accordance with the customary law under which it was granted.

Issued by:      The Southern Africa Litigation Centre

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