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Zambia: Challenging the displacement of communities from customary land in the Serenje District

The Muchinda Royal Establishment, the Zambia Land Alliance and SALC supported a displaced community who is currently residing in Musangashi Forest Reserve after they were violently displaced from their ancestral land in Mulembo, near Mulembo River (now called Billis Farm Limited) in the Serenje District of the Central Province of Zambia. The community challenged their forced eviction, destruction of their properties and assets and uncompensated taking of their customary land.

The community sought refuge in the Musangashi Forest Reserve. They continue to struggle with bad housing and shelter, chronic food and water insecurity, ill health, lack of options for an income and livelihood and inability to send their children to school. No public services are available in the Forest Reserve and the community is not permitted to engage in agricultural activities. The nearest healthcare facilities are far away. The nearest water source is five kilometres away and of bad quality, and the soil in the Forest Reserve is also of poor quality. Since their displacement, the community has lost their ability to generate income and grow food.

The Zambia Daily Mail reported this case on 13 September 2013 in an article titled “Displaced Serenje Families in Anguish”.   Human Rights Watch  also reported on the case as the Billis Farm in its October 2017 report on Commercial Farmers and Displacement in Zambia.

On 15 December 2017, the community filed their case in the Lusaka High Court. The community argued that the actions of commercial farmers, businesses and the government of the Republic of Zambia violated their constitutional rights.

The community is represented by Malambo and Company. The matter was heard on 2, 3 and 5 October 2019. Judgment was delivered on 30 April 2020 in favour of the community.

On 21 April 2022, the Zambia Court of Appeal handed a judgment cancelling the Certificate of Title issued to Bills Farm Limited following an unlawful conversion of customary land to State land. The Court further ordered that the land already converted to State land reverts to customary tenure.

Court of Appeal judgment
Case summary
High Court judgment
Daily Mail article

News Releases
22 April 2022 – News release: Zambia Court of Appeal affirms displaced  community’s customary land rights.
4 May 2020 – Zambia High Court upholds displaced communities’ land rights.

Case in the news
26 June 2020 – A new dawn for the protection of the rights of vulnerable communities with unregistered land in Zambia.

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