Chipenzi urges chiefs to ‘open their eyes’ over the proposed Local Govt bill
By Staff Reporter
A Constitution expert has advised traditional rulers to be alert of government’s manoeuvres to ‘sneak’ in a bill that will disfranchise them over the control of traditional land in the name of national development.
In a Facebook post today, Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CSCA) chairperson McDonald Chipenzi advised traditional chiefs to ‘open their eyes’ and monitor government skirmishes to grab land, after failing to convince them to support the land policy which would consequently lead to the amendment of the Lands Act.
Chipenzi said he was aware that the government wanted to use the proposed Local Government bill N.A.B 2, 2019 that seeks to repeal and replace the Local Government Act of 1991.
“As I was perusing through the proposed Local Government Bill (2019) I came across some threatening provisions which I thought could lay my opinion on. I hope and trust that the Ministry of Local Government had extensive consultations with traditional leadership on the inclusion of Section 21 (1) in the proposed Local Government Bill (2019),” states Chipenzi.
“This section states that, ‘a local authority may acquire land by agreement whether by way of purchase, lease, exchange or gift.’ If no consultations and agreement are arrived at with traditional leadership, then this Bill may be a source of serious land conflict in the country between government, local authorities, the Presidency and Traditional leadership and other landowners in the country” he further outlines.
Chipenzi states that in subsection 2, the proposed Bill suggests that, ‘where the acquisition by a local authority of land under the powers conferred under subsection (1) is being hindered by reason of the inability of the parties to agree on the terms of the acquisition or any other cause, the President may, on an application by the local authority and on being satisfied that the land is land to which the Lands Acquisition Act applies and that its acquisition by the local authority is necessary or expedient acquire land— (a) in the interest of public safety, public order, public morality, public health or urban and regional planning; or (b) in order to secure the development or utilization of that or other land for a purpose beneficial to the inhabitants of the area of the local authority”.
Chipenzi explains that this provision empowers the president to get the land from anybody compulsorily and give/transfer it to the Council then the Council looks into the issues of compensation.
He explains that “perhaps, this provision has been prompted in here because of the new districts that have been created which have had challenges in acquiring land from chiefs/traditional leaders and residents/communities, in some cases, leading to lawsuits against the government or total failure to construct district offices due to no land”.
Chipenzi also asks on what the Lands Acquisition Act (1970) states to which the proposed bill has dragged into to develop the 2019 land Bill.
Chipenzi says section 3 of the Lands Acquisition Act (1970) stresses that, “subject to the provisions of this Act, the President may, whenever he is of the opinion that it is desirable or expedient in the interests of the Republic to do so, compulsorily acquire any property of any description.”
He further says section 3 of the proposed Local Government Act (2019) guides that “all expenses and compensation incurred as a result of the acquisition shall be paid by the local authority into the Consolidated Fund and, on payment being made; the estate of any land so acquired by the President shall be transferred to the local authority.”
Chipenzi says he hopes that the chiefs and the House of Chiefs, as a collective, “have or will take keen interest and involvement in the making of this Local Government Law and flush out some of these provisions rather than leave it to Councillors alone”.
He says if the chiefs leave it to the council to hold to traditional land in the face of indiscriminate establishment of new districts in their chiefdoms, they risk being threatened with the compulsory acquisition of land by the State through the President, using the current and yet to be laws”.
“Hope the chiefs representatives in these councils will have the right intellectualism to argue their cases especially on the provisions of section 21 of the proposed Local Government Bill (2019), otherwise, some people will be left in the cold. I submit my opinion!” declares Chipenzi.