Lesotho a reference point in land reforms – LAA  

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Bereng Mpaki

LESOTHO has made great strides in putting in place systems that have improved land administration and helped to reduce disputes related to land ownership, inheritance and boundaries.

As a result, the country has become a reference point for other African countries still battling to get land administration processes working, thanks to the assistance provided by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) between 2008 and 2013.

In an interview this week, the Land Administration Authority (LAA) Director General Mahashe Chaka said through the MCC First Compact, they funded the Land Administration Reform Project (LARP), which facilitated the repeal of the Land Act of 1979 and enabled the development of the Land Act of 2010.

“This project separated land administration and land management functions in order to improve service delivery leading to folding of Land Surveys and Physical Planning (LSPP) to the establishment of the Land Administration Authority (LAA),” Mr Chaka said.

Following this institutional development, some countries have shown interest to learn from Lesotho’s land administration systems.

“Our legislation (Land Act 2010) helped us to get land administration right because we were able to establish an authority (LAA), which operationalized the reform. I would say, establishing an implementing body is the most difficult task in most African countries. In some countries, they only manage to put in place the legislation but for some reasons, fail to establish an institution that facilitates the land administration processes,” Mr Chaka said.

He further explained that for Lesotho, developments in the administration of land were in compliant with the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG), which highlights the institutional, legal and spatial framework.

Mr Chaka core chairs the Land Administration and Management Technical Group at the United Nations, which is instrumental at advising other countries on land matters.

He explained that land administration involves processes of determining, recording and disseminating information about the ownership, value and use of land for the implementation of land management policies.

In addition, land management refers to the activities associated with the management of land as a resource from both an environmental and an economic perspective towards sustainable development, Mr Chaka said.

Recently, the LAA hosted a team of experts from the World Bank, led by Klaus Dingier, whose visit was aimed at assessing the impact of the project they have supported.

“The team was largely satisfied with a lot of progress so far made if you consider that the issuance of land leases which used to take up to a year prior to the support, now take less than a month while property transfers now take less than seven days,” Mr Chaka said.

This has subsequently led to Lesotho having the highest score in the region in the time spent registering property, according to the World Bank Doing Business Index. Lesotho ranks 109 out of 190 nations on property registration.

“We have made a positive impact particularly on the land administration, including the creation of a land registry (cadastre),” Mr Chaka said.

He said the team was also impressed by the new dispute resolution mechanisms, which is an area that can prolong processes.

“As the LAA, we are also providing mediation and conciliation services to ensure a win-win situation in disputes. This has helped us to enhance our services and to reduce the time taken to finalise services required.”

However, cases that prove beyond the LAA are referred to the court for further arbitration.

However he noted that one of the frustrations is the fact that LAA cannot arbitrate on land disputes since it is not part of the judiciary, although there are plans by to government to address that. Currently, LAA has to refer cases that have failed to be concluded to the courts of law, where they are subjected to the judicial process.

Mr Chaka said while the LAA has achieved a lot in the last seven years, they are still waiting for the passing of the Sectional Titles Bill developed and finalized in 2012.

The Bill will help to enable separate ownership of a section or sections of a building in a building complex without necessarily owning the land on which the building stands. It is hoped that once enacted, this new law will open up new property market opportunities that have never existed in Lesotho before now.

“It has seen three different appearances in parliament in 2012, but then, the process was disrupted when the government changed. Over the years, we have been presenting the Bill in parliament and were very unfortunate because it was affected by the political changes that took place in the last five years. It’s a good Bill, and we are hoping that this time around it will be passed into law.”

Mr Chaka said apart from pushing for the enactment of the Bill, they look forward to tackling poor land allocation and management through the second MCC Compact, that was recently approved.

“We have made available the National GIS Platform, which will assist in addressing poor land allocation and the land management problem. It is therefore envisaged that this reform will continue to create the necessary conditions for new results as we expect that land disputes will be further reduced,” Mr Chaka said, adding that, the National GIS Platform would also assist with Geoinformatics, Urban Planning and Management, Geological Remote Sensing and Disaster Management.

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