By JAMES KUNDA and CHUSA SICHONE –
PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has said that the Government expects investors to make adequate compensation to indigenous persons displaced from their land to make way for business ventures such as large-scale farming.
Mr Lungu said investors had an obligation to both the law and the settlers to abide by the national land policy, through ensuring that settlers displaced from land for business activities are adequately compensated.
Mr Lungu said Zambia was a country of well-structured rules and regulations and people, whether indigenous or foreign, must ensure that they abide by the law.
Mr Lungu said this to journalists in Lusaka on Tuesday, in reaction to reports that investors in some parts of the country were shilly-shallying in compensating settlers displaced from domestic land they had occupied for generations.
“I think what you need to know is that the country has respect for the rule of law, and the rule of law is very important for us. So I would like to believe that investors do everything within the law,” President Lungu said.
The President said when embarking on a project on any piece of land, the Government itself ensured that existing settlers were adequately compensated, in some instances with not only land and but new accommodation as well.
He said that respecting the rule of law was essential to sustaining social order.
In its report, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) appealed to the Government to intervene in the displacement of villagers by commercial farmers in Central Province’s Serenje District.
This follows a research conducted by the HRW between June 2016 and August 2017 culminating into a 101-page report dubbed ‘Forced to Leave: Commercial Farming and Displacement in Zambia launched in Lusaka recently.
“Families that have lived and farmed for generations on land now allocated to commercial farms are being displaced without due process or compensation. Families have been left hungry and homeless,” said Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu, the report’s author and researcher on women and land at the HRW.
The research focused on Serenje District where the Government has been promoting large scale agriculture and farm blocs, with HRW investigating six commercial farms, ranging from 150 hectares to more than 5,000 hectares of land; five of the farms within the Luombwa farm bloc while the other in Nansanga farm bloc.
Serenje District has five major farm blocs in Nansanga, Luombwa, Munte, Kasanka and Ssasa.
Some of the activities the HRW researchers engaged in were conducting a number of interviews, 132 with individual community members in four communities in Luombwa farm bloc, with Government officials, commercial farm representatives and the civil society.
The HRW stated that long-term residents had been evicted, sometimes forcibly, or feared displacement from land to make way for commercial farmers while several thousand more might be at risk of being pushed out of their homes without compensation.
The HRW, according to the information its researchers gathered from the affected families, revealed that Billis Farm Limited forcibly evicted 46 families in 2013 without compensating or resettling them despite destroying their homes, trees, crops and other property.
Similarly, the report alleged also that Nyamanza Farming Limited forcibly evicted approximately 45 families in 2015 and 2016 without compensation or resettlement assistance despite destroying their homes, trees, livestock and other property.
The HRW accused Rowe Farming Limited of attempting to displace about 24 families while some were displaced last year and compensated five families between K5,575 and K7,757 after destroying their homes, among other properties.
In the case of Fairfield Farm, the report alleged that 22 families risked being displaced and that there was no compensation or resettlement as at June 2017 while receiving threats of destruction of their homes and other property.
It is alleged also that Kasary Kuti Ranch displaced some 12 families affected by court-ordered eviction and ordering compensation of K1,000 while most of them remained on the land because they appealed against the eviction.