The purpose of the research is to: 1) investigate the interpretation of the sections in the Lands Act of 1995 that provide for the statutory recognition on one hand, and conversion of customary land, on the other; and 2) discuss the effects of the said sections on customary landholders. Methodologically, qualitative methods (largely in-depth interviews) were used to conclude that governments in sub-Sahara Africa are the architects of tenure insecurity because they (knowingly or otherwise) enact laws that are contradictory or conflicting in nature. In the case of Zambia, there are contradicting sections within the Lands Act 1995 where, while one section provides for the conversion of customary land, the other provides for statutory recognition of the same traditional tenure. This therefore casts a shadow of confusion regarding the meaning of “statutory recognition” in that in practice “legality”, by way of holding private title deed, always takes precedence over “social legitimacy”. The implication of this is tenure insecurity and an associated avalanche of evictions, elite capture, sub-division and enclosures of common pool resources, land grabs, and land conflicts. We recommend that, guided by research, concerned governments should consider emulating other countries like Tanzania and Botswana, which have enacted “bespoke” land laws that are specifically meant for state land, and other land laws specifically for customary land.
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