‘Land administration is vital’
The Land Administration Authority (LAA) on 15 June 2016 celebrated its sixth anniversary. The LAA was established following the enactment of the Land Administration Authority Act of 2010, changing the way Basotho had always related to this very critical resource. LAA Director-General and Chief Executive Mr Mahashe Chaka speaks to Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, about the organisation’s achievements and challenges and what the future holds for this very important institution.
LT: The Land Administration Authority is celebrating six years of existence this year, and the journey must have been a challenging one considering the changes that have taken place in relation to the organisation’s establishment…
Chaka: Let me start by giving you a fair overview of the land sector in Lesotho. Lesotho operates what we call a leasehold system versus freehold, which means we only issue user rights. The land belongs to Basotho. It’s held in trust by the King on behalf of the Basotho nation. Anyone who uses our land, we actually just confer you rights to use that land. Therefore, we lease the land to you. This is where the term leasehold comes from and is enshrined in our Constitution – Section 107, which is our supreme law. As a sovereign state drawing all our laws from the Constitution, we had the Land Act of 1979 which first formalised a lease as a document. A lease is a simple agreement of the user rights. The government, on behalf of the Basotho nation, grants you certain rights to land. The rights are in terms of residential and commercial use. In the Land Act of 1979, that’s where the issuance of a lease was started. A Mosotho would be called a leasee and on behalf of the government, we have the leassor. The two then sign a contract or agreement which has a timeframe. That means after a particular period of time, you renew that contractual agreement.
LT: So what was wrong with the Land Act of 1979?
Chaka: Everything was okay until late 2006 when there were some issues in terms of economic growth. There were some studies done by both the government of Lesotho and the United States of America. Those studies revealed that there were some impediments to economic growth, among them the issuance of a lease. The lease was a bit of a problem to get; it was taking too long. But there was a Department of Lands Surveys and Physical Planning (LSPP) under the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship. Like most civil servants, trying to keep up with pressure to get improved service-delivery was a challenge. After the studies had shown that the issue of economic growth was being hampered by the issuance of a lease, government had to do something about it. The matter was included in reforms the government of Lesotho entered into with the Millennium Challenge Account – Lesotho project funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is a department in the US government. The deal was then signed in 2006. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the three spheres the project was centered around, was a private sector development which had what you call the Land Administration Reform project as a subsector. The project then had two main activities; we had to review the Land Act of 1979, and after the review, we had to come up with an implementing entity. That’s how the Land Act of 2010 came into being. But trying to reform the Land Act of 1979 was not easy. You can ask the people who were in parliament during that session and they will tell you it was very difficult. But our Members of Parliament eventually approved the Land Act of 2010 on 16 June 2010. The Land Administration Authority Act of 2010, on the other hand, had also been approved on 15 June 2010. That’s the order in which the two Acts came out.