The Southern Africa Litigation Centre is currently assisting four residents (Petitioners) of Senior Chief Muchinda in the Serenje District of the Central Province of Zambia in bringing a case against an investor and commercial farmer who has removed them from their ancestral land forcefully without compensation and who has destroyed their properties and contaminated their environment. In their application, the Petitioners argue that the actions by the commercial farmer and the State and specific provisions of the Land and Deed Registry Act violate their rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zambia.
These rights 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 that their constitutional protections to continue enjoying their customary land have been violated by taking over and destroying their land and property without compensation.
In 2015, the Petitioners were approached by an investor and commercial farmer who claimed he owned the land the Petitioners had resided on and farmed for generations. After the Petitioners refused to relocate voluntarily without compensation, the commercial farmer undertook to remove them from the land forcibly. 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 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 the main road. Aggrieved by the commercial farmer’s actions and the state’s inaction, the Petitioners, with SALC’s support, filed a case in the High Court in December 2017.
On 24 March 2023, the High Court of Zambia granted an interim injunction restraining the company and commercial farmer from carrying out the complained farming activities to protect the Petitioners from losing their interest in the land and the irreparable damage likely to the land and the environment due to the company’s farming activities.