Posted on

Possessory title – an assault on private property/ownership?


The possessory title process has its flaws, but it should only be available to those persons who can trace blood relation to the original owner or for faithful friends who were promised the land, but for some reason, that deed of gift was not done. Possessory title for all others should be abolished.{{more}}

Protection under the constitution

If we believe in private property and private ownership, we would not subscribe to possessory titles. Once someone buys a property, it should not be taken away because someone illegally squats on the land, and furthermore, private ownership is protected by the constitution. People could deliberately occupy other people’s land with a view to gain possession. It could also give trespassers that slim hope of possessing property belonging to others. It causes the legitimate owner, if he discovers the challenge beforehand, the inconvenience of having to go to court.

The benefits gained from occupying

What gives a total stranger the right to occupy and claim lands belonging to another person? The law allows him to legally own that which he illegally occupied for 12 years because he did so adversely. If he spends money on the land, it is for his own benefit. During the time he works the land planting crops, he benefits from the land. I am not denying the economic benefits to the country, but this goes against the tenets of private property that respects the rights to private ownership. The law should not help illegal occupants.

Family lands should always remain family lands

I would still maintain that possessory title must remain within the family circle. If there are no longer members of the family remaining and no one turns up, the land should go back to the state. Possessory title should be confined to family and relations, once someone can show that there is some blood or marriage relation. When many of our ancestors bought lands years ago, they obtained a receipt, not a deed. In some cases, they did not have the funds to register or they did not know about registration of land. There is advanced knowledge about registration and there must be opportunity for them to register the land that their ancestor struggled to pay for. Their relatives should not be penalized because they did not turn up for twelve years.

Crown lands

No one can claim possessory title for Crown lands and in some countries possessory title is not on the law books.

The purpose of notices

According to the Act, notices must be issued to the neighbours or owners of adjoining lands but what if the family members are overseas? How do they get to see notices in the local newspapers? Even for locals, they must always peruse the newspapers to make sure no one is acquiring their lands. The newspaper notices serve some purposes, but the process puts a strain on the populace and compels people to peruse the three newspapers every week to make sure that there is no application for possessory title on lands belonging to them.

Struggle of families

We have to understand the struggle of our family overseas. They are so caught up in the process of earning a living, that there is not time to deal with the family land at home. They allow someone to use the property and before they know it, that person is making application to take the land as some one said “to tief” the land. The law should not help persons to possess lands belonging to another.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: