Land corruption haunts SADC

Corruption is a major obstacle in the way of equitable land allocation in Southern Africa, experts say.

05 September 2019 | Agriculture

Corruption involving civil servants, chiefs, monarchs, banks and corporates, among others, remains a thorn in the flesh in terms of equitable land allocation and management across southern Africa.

This is according to land management experts who shared their experiences during a land governance symposium earlier this week in Windhoek.

Dr Fatima Mandhu, the head of department at the University of Zambia's school of law, said: “According to data, we have some traditional chiefs and land officials on the payroll of very big banks and companies, who get their land titles approved very quickly.”

Mandhu added the consequence of corruption is that it is very difficult for the majority of people to acquire or secure statutory land on an equitable basis.

She also noted that on a smaller scale, corruption is also present when individuals are granted land by traditional authorities in circumstances where they are not entitled to it.

Mandhu said currently there are too many institutions dealing with state land administration, which is causing a coordination problem.

“Inadequate coordination among these land institutions leads to problems, like the same parcel of land being offered to different people by different land institutions, thereby causing land disputes,” she said.

Corruption is also a challenges in Lesotho, said land expert Malopo Ntaote, adding that to date very little has been done to curb it.

According to him one of the major issues is that it is difficult to hold chiefs and monarchs accountable.

“There is another aspect where civil servants are involved in underhanded practices to ensure the allocation of land.

“One would say there is a total collapse; we have had an instance where a commission of inquiry was set up and some personnel were accused of corrupt practices,” he said.

Johnson Kampamba from Botswana said they are haunted by a lack of a well-coordinated system, delays in land allocation and poor recordkeeping.

He also raised corruption as a key challenge. “The lack of a well-coordinated system can result in corrupt acts and double allocations. This could also lead to delays in the allocation of land,” he said.

Professor Absalom Manyatsi from Eswatini also raised the issue of delays when enacting legislation that would enable the proper functioning of a land management board.

“There is a lack of information on land boundaries and a prevalence of forced evictions,” he said.

Manyatsi pointed out there are often disputes between traditional chiefs when it comes to land boundaries, due to a lack of land ownership rights.

“Inter-chieftain land disputes fracture social relationships and divide residents who may be staying in the same location. They ordinarily involve boundaries and are usually provoked by development projects. Inter-chieftain land disputes often result in evictions and hinder developments,” he said.

Manyatsi added the powers of traditional local authorities have been eroded in some communities, because of chieftaincy disputes and a loss of authority and respect by traditional leaders.

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