The Southern Africa Litigation Centre is assisting the Munte community of Senior Chief Muchinda (“Munte community”) with retaining the land they have occupied and farmed for generations. In court, the Munte community specifically challenges the local land authority’s allocation of their ancestral land to commercial farmers without consultation or compensation.
In 1995, a businessman (“1st Respondent”) was engaged to construct a bridge across the Munte River and was allocated land in Munte Farm Block by the local authority. The Munte community was at that time unaware that the said businessman made an application and was subsequently issued land since the Munte Farm Block was far from the land they occupied. Later in 1999, Senior Chief Muchinda authorised the 1st Respondent to settle as a commercial farmer along the Munte River. From that time until 2014, the Munte community was only aware that the 1st Respondent was a resident who had been given a small plot of farmland by their Chief as any villager would have been given.
In 2014, the Munte community learned that the 1st Respondent was claiming the entire land they occupied. The community was at the time unaware that the 1st Respondent had on 10 July 2013 been issued with a Certificate of Title. On 8 September 2014, after meeting with several local government officials to discuss the issue, the meeting ended with a resolution to demarcate the 1st Respondent’s land as part of the Nansanga Farm Block, away from the land the Munte community occupied.
Just when the Munte community thought the whole issue of the land had been amicably resolved. Another commercial farmer (“2nd Respondent”) arrived in the area in 2016, informing the Community that he purchased the land from the 1st Respondent and owned all of the land occupied by the Munte community. Only then did the Munte community learn that their customary land had been converted to state land as part of the Nansanga Farm Block and that a Certificate of Title was issued to the 1st Respondent in 2013.
On 8 November 2016, another meeting was held where the District Commissioner told the community members that the 2nd Respondent owned the entire land and that they were to vacate it within two weeks. In December 2016, in the company of armed police officers, the 2nd Respondent used a bulldozer to demarcate a boundary line and informed the Munte community that they had to vacate by April 2017. The 2nd Respondent has since erected poles along the boundary to build a wire fence enclosing the entire land.
In October 2017, Human Rights Watch reported on this case in a report titled “ Forced to Leave : Commercial Farming and Displacement in Zambia” under the subheading “ Badcock Farm”.
On 29 November 2017, the Munte community, with SALC’s support, filed a case in the Lusaka High Court challenging the taking of their land without consultation or compensation. In their court papers, the Munte community asked the court to cancel the Certificate of Title issued to the commercial farmer because the State issued the Certificate without following due process and additionally made the following submissions:
- that the compulsory acquisition of their customary land occurred without following the mandatory legal procedures, and in the process, they were not provided with adequate compensation;
- that the commercial farmers and the States’ actions have violated their constitutional rights, including but not limited to the right to property, dignity, life necessities, and freedom of movement; and
- That certain sections of the Lands and Deed Registry Act disadvantage those communities who enjoy customary land rights contrary to Article 23 of the Constitution; and
The case has already been argued in Court, and we are waiting for the judgment, which the presiding Judge at Status Conference advised would be delivered in May 2023.
The Community is represented by Malambo and Company.