Senior Chief Shakumbila of the Sala people in Shibuyunji district of central province says traditional leaders have no option but to give out land to mining companies that seek to take development there.

Recently, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata lamented that traditional leaders had a tendency of giving out more than 250 hectares of land to foreigners which was beyond their mandate.

“Zambian land is vested in the president, he is the one who can revoke any land from foreign nationals. Now, 10 percent of the Zambian land is state land, 90 percent is customary land or under what we call chiefdoms, so to speak under the chiefs. But we have a situation where some of the chiefs, I am not saying everyone with due respect to our royal highnesses, they will give 250 [hectares] again 250, and again 250 to a group of maybe Chinese using different names. By the end of the day that Chinese has so much for himself. And this is why I am saying chiefs are only allowed to give only up to 250 hectares,” said Kapata.

But in an interview, Chief Shakumbila said traditional leaders had the final authority on managing and supervising traditional land.

“This issue has been on. The land policy has not been defined so far. You know on the traditional land, I think the final authority is the chief. Yes we know that land is vested in the name of the president, we know very well about that. But if it comes to management authority and supervision, traditional land falls under the traditional leader’s responsibility and we have companies like these mining companies which come into chiefdoms because a mining company will never be found in an urban area, you will find it in the typical rural area,” Chief Shakumbila said.

“And when people come, they will tell you ‘chief we need this much of land’ for us to do an investigation of the minerals they are looking for. And the chief definitely will have no choice but to give it to those people to do their work because that’s development and that is what we need here in Zambia. And that is what makes chiefs to perhaps apportion more than 250 [hectares] because of such type of large investment. But if that person is looking for land more than 250 hectares and applies for a title, a recommendation will be addressed to the commissioner of land for further study or consideration, whichever way. We will not just there and then approve or recommend that this person should be given a title because it is beyond 250. But all in all, the overall owner of that traditional land is the chief.”

He said 250 hectares of land was too small for large investment.

“So if the land to be given out is meant for development, that’s okay because these large investment can’t get a 250 [hectares] because 250 is a size for a person who is yearning to become a commercial farmer, it is a very small piece of land. And 250 hectares is nothing to a bigger farmer who wants to invest in sugar farming, he wants to invest in maize farming, he wants to invest in livestock farming, in fishery farming, you combine all these things go together. The land policy, this thing has been on and on my friend and at one time when I was the member of the house of chiefs, we attended a number of workshops, I can’t remember how many they were. We can’t reverse land policy. We have two pieces of land, the legislative one and the customary one. In customary land, it is traditional leadership responsible, it is the state leadership responsible,” said chief Shakumbila.