- An order and a declaration that the taking over of their customary land without following the required procedure is unconstitutional and is therefore null and void;
- An order and declaration that they be allowed to enjoy their land in accordance with the customary law of the area and its attendant rights; and
- An order cancelling any allocation, assignment or Certificate of Title that was issued to Yssel Enterprises Limited.
Zambia: Challenging the displacement of communities from customary land in the Serenje District
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, in collaboration with the Muchinda Royal Establishment together with the Zambia Land Alliance, is assisting 13 community members, each representing their family in bringing forth a case where they seek to challenge their forced eviction, destruction of their properties and assets, and the seizure of their customary land without any consultation and compensation. Background Before their eviction, Molosoni Chipabwamba and 12 Other displaced villagers lived in a village called Milumbe along the Mulembo River in Chief Muchinda’s Chiefdom in the Serenje District. Evidence shows that some of the said villagers had lived in the area as far back as 1969, long before their land was designated as a Farm Block in 1997. In January 1996, Yssel Enterprises Limited applied for the land in dispute, and the application was approved by the Works, Development and Social Services Committee together with the entire Council of Serenje District without prior authorisation from Senior Chief Muchinda. In December 1997, Senior Chief Muchinda eventually authorised Yssel Enterprises Limited to settle as a commercial farmer in his Chiefdom more than a year after the Serenje District Council unlawfully approved its application. Senior Chief Muchinda, however, carefully demarcated the land he authorised Yssel Enterprises Limited to settle on as a commercial farmer as the land along the Luombwa River, an area of 360 hectares. The Chief clarified that he did not authorise the 1st Interested Party to reach the Mulembo River, where the Respondents had lived for generations. Bizarrely, the eventual Certificate of Title issued to Yssel Enterprises Limited in 1998 was 2040 hectares in extent and included the 13 villager’s customary land. The property passed through several commercial owners since then. In 2013, new owners, Bills Farm Limited and Abraham Lodewikus Vilgeoen, forcefully evicted the 13 villagers and destroyed their homes, crops, and fruit trees. Bills Farm Limited and Abraham Lodewikus Vilgeoen’s decision to expel the 13 villagers and their families followed after the Serenje District magistrate found it its decision that land occupied by 13 villagers belonged to a commercial farmer and that they were all together with their dependents to vacate the land. The community members were forced to vacate the area without packing their belongings. After their illegal eviction, the community found refuge in Musangashi Forest Reserve. When they sought help from the Serenje District Commissioner’s Office and the Permanent Secretary for Central Province, they only received a month’s supply of food and tents. Since 2013, the community has had no access to clean water or a sustainable means of sustenance. In the High Court On 15 December 2017, the community filed a case in the Lusaka High Court where they challenged their forced eviction, the destruction of their properties, and the taking of their customary land without compensation and consultation. In the High Court, the community among others, sought the following relief: