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Zambia: Challenging the taking over of customary land and allocation to commercial farmers and the destruction of property and contamination of the environment without consent or compensation

SALC is supporting four residents (Petitioners) of Senior Chief Muchinda in Serenje District of the Central Province of Zambia. In 2015, the Petitioners were approached by an investor and commercial farmer who claimed that he owned the land the Petitioners had resided on and farmed for generations. After the Petitioners refused to voluntarily relocate without compensation, the commercial farmer undertook to forcibly remove them from the land. In 2016, the commercial farmer cleared the Petitioners’ land, destroyed their crops, uprooted trees, destroyed a house, and blocked access to the remaining fields. Unable to access their fields, the Petitioners are now facing worsened poverty and food insecurity. The commercial farming activities taking place in the area affect the quality of the petitioners’ drinking water and health. The Petitioners’ freedom of movement has also been affected by the commercial farmer who has restricted their ability to access resources from the forest or access the main road.

The Petitioners supported by SALC filed a petition in the High Court in December 2017 asserting that the actions by the commercial farmer and the State, and certain provisions of the Land and Deed Registry Act violate their rights as enshrined by articles 8, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 28, 256 and 266 of the Constitution of Zambia. These include the right to dignity, right to bare life necessities, right to be free from inhuman treatment, right to be free from discrimination, right to freedom of movement, and right to protection of privacy of the home and other property. In addition, the Petitioners argue their constitutional protections privileges to continue enjoying their customary land have been violated by the taking over and destruction of their land and property without compensation.

The Lusaka High Court will hear the matter on 7th, 8th, 9th, 16, and 17th October 2019.

Continued trial was held on 8 July and 22 September 2020.

Trial continued on 8 and 9 July 2021 and 23 and 24 August 2021.

Trial continued on 22 and 23 November 2021. However, the Judge passed away late 2021 when only one witness for the Respondent  had remained before the close of the proceedings.

The matter has been allocated to a new Judge and it came up for a scheduling conference on 12 May 2022. It was rescheduled  for a hearing on 31 May 2022.

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