You made the all important decision to buy land in Zambia; it may have been a recent purchase or done a few years ago. Is your investment safe or could it be in danger of being repossessed? The law does allow for specific situations where the state can repossess land; namely when there’s been a breach of the law or a term or condition of the lease between the owner and the state. Common breaches include failure to pay the annual ground rent and lack of development of the property.
How would the land be repossessed?
The state would give you three months notice of its intention to re-enter your property and ask that you give reasons as to why your property should not be repossessed.
The notice is sent by registered post at your last indicated address or advertised in a daily newspaper.
Once the three month notice period has elapsed and you have not made any representations or you have not been able to show that the breach was not intentional or beyond your control, the state will place a certificate of re-entry on your property and it will be repossessed.
If your land has been repossessed, can you appeal?
You can appeal this decision within three months at the Lands Tribunal. There are times when you can appeal beyond the three month period but you would have to show good reasons why you did not appeal within the required time. Common grounds of appeal are usually where notice was not properly given or there were no proper grounds to cause the issuance of the notice to re-enter.
It’s important to know that if your land is repossessed and there have been developments on the land, then you are entitled to be compensated for those developments. Our constitution does not allow the deprivation of property without compensation and that compensation is payable to the dispossessed owner whether the re-entry was for a good or for bad reason.
How can you best protect your land if you are in the diaspora?
If you are in the diaspora make sure that your land is developed – even a foundation is considered sufficient.
Make sure that you are up to date with your ground rent payments. Don’t allow your account to fall into arrears for years.
Check that your records are up to date at the ministry of lands or local council (depending on what type of title deed you hold) and that your postal and physical address have been properly recorded.
Seek professional legal advice to ensure your interests are protected.