Delegates quarrel with Chairperson at Constitution conference

The articles on land and the classification of land in the draft constitution today caused strong arguments among delegates and between the delegates and the chairperson at the ongoing national constitution convention.

This was after Vice Chairperson of the convention Lillian Kapulu ruled that the articles and clauses that provide for state land be retained while some delegates wanted them amended and not relegated to subsidiary legislation as recommended by the thematic group.

Confusion erupted when the thematic group on land, property, environment and natural resources wanted some clauses that define state land to be relegated to the subsidiary legislation while the house rejected the amendments which the chairperson interpreted as a sign that they have retained the clause without amendments.

Ms. Kapulu had a tough time to control delegates who started shouting uncontrollably without following order after the acclamation vote was ruled in favor of those who rejected the amendments to the article.

After minutes of disorderly, the chairperson called for another vote which went in favor of those that wanted the clause retained.

In their debates, delegates feared that clause 1 (c), (d) and (f) which they wanted to amend in order to protect ordinary Zambians will leave people of Luapula, North-Western and Western Provinces without land as most parts of these provinces have either mineral deposits, gas, oil, national parks and forests, river basins or other natural flowing water resources.

Chief Chipepo, who debated emotionally, disclosed that his people have at some point been victims of displacement due to some land being declared state land and noted that ceremonies such as Kuomboka of the Lozi people of Western Province might be affected if the water basins and rivers are declared state land.

The traditional leader’s argument was supported by another traditional leader, Katele Kalumba, who also felt that land should be solely for Zambia. Most delegates argued that foreigners should not own land even when the house was considering other topics on land.

Kalomo Member of Parliament, Request Muntanga, who frequently interrupted the debate and the chairperson, noted that land issues should be taken seriously as they have potential to cause war and conflict in the country.

Mr. Muntanga land should be given to the people while Lands Minister Wylbur Simuusa and other delegates argued that land should be classified as state land.

The house voted on the three clauses and retained all of them without amendments.

Clause 1 (c), (d) and (f) of article 296 describes state land as land held, used or occupied by any state institution nor local authority, land on or under which minerals, gas and mineral oils are found.

The clause further defines state land as land occupied by or through which any natural resource passes including gazetted or declared national forests, game reserves, river basins and water catchment areas, rivers and other natural flowing water resources, national parks, animal sanctuaries, natural and cultural heritage sites and specially protected areas.

With the retention of the clauses, it means that if the state takes over all its land as provided for by the constitution, ceremonies that take place on rivers and water basins may not be taking place while most people on the Copperbelt and North-western provinces which are almost wholly endowed with minerals might continuously be legally displaced.

Earlier, the house retained article 294, to vest land in the president in trust for and on behalf of the people of Zambia with emphasis that foreigners should not own land in Zambia.

Meanwhile, the convention is today expected to come to a close after considering all it pending business that include secret ballot voting on contentious issues which the house failed to resolve during the week.

ZANIS