By Nicky Rehbock

Fifteen bright young minds from Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe came together recently to brainstorm innovative solutions to combat land corruption.

The ChangemakerXchange was a joint project between Transparency International (TI) and Ashoka, a global network for social entrepreneurs. The initiative is part of TI’s Land and Corruption in Africa programme, which strives to curb land corruption and achieve fair and equitable access to land for men and women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Participants were brought to South Africa for an intensive three-day workshop, where they were mentored by leading social entrepreneurs and encouraged to develop solutions to boost integrity in the land sector, with an emphasis on cross-border collaboration. The four best projects to come out of this initiative will win seed grants to so they can be developed further.
Our own Ronald Menoe addressed the young corruption fighters at the event, giving them tips on how to be an activist and stay safe while doing so. He also gave an overview of our activities in relation to our position as the local chapter of TI.

Here are some of the participants’ ideas:

Hilda Liswani (24) and Ray Mwareya (33)

“The problem we’ve identified is foreign companies coming into rural areas in Zimbabwe and Namibia, and grabbing land for development without consulting local communities.”

rayhildaTheir solution is to work with an existing community-based digital media organisation in Namibia, currently run by Hilda, and develop an online platform that uses open data and reports from whistleblowers to expose land invasions. The idea is to equip community members with low-cost mobile camera phones with GPS technology to take photos of land grabs in their areas and send them to the platform.

Ray and Hilda will use this information to draw up heat maps of suspicious activity and publish them online. As an experienced investigative reporter, Ray is planning to train community members on how to use the phones in a way that doesn’t compromise their safety. The team eventually hopes to share information they gather with authorities and push for action to be taken against the perpetrators.

Ariel Lashansky (28)

“Despite being the custodians of their own land for thousands of years, the communities of the rural Eastern Cape have very little power over its ownership,” Ariel says.

ariel“Earlier this year, I founded an NGO and tried to set up a football field for the community. A government department intervened and claimed ownership of the land allocated for the field. I later found out that officials had sold this land to a local businessman so he could develop it for his own commercial interests. This is not an isolated incident and these vulnerable communities need better tools to protect their most valuable asset. The problem is the lack of a proper land registry and transparency around local land ownership.”

Ariel’s idea is to work with a Ghanaian NGO to collect property ownership details and land usage rights in a secure, easily-accessible electronic format. The greater goal is to record all the transactions in a ledger using tamper-proof, decentralised technology so that the public knows who owns which plot of land.

Kudzai Goremusandu (22), Lucia Mahlanza (29) and Terrence Mugova (33)

“Communities can lose time, money and their properties due to lack of knowledge of the land acquisition and allocation process. There are loopholes in this system that makes it easy for private developers and officials to swindle citizens.”

terrenceluciakudzaiPeople are suffering because their land rights are being disregarded and because they lack the knowledge about the right processes to follow,” says Lucia. “We have a saying in Zimbabwe – our land is our economy. To deny someone access to land or override their rights for personal gain is criminal.”

Kudzai, Lucia and Terrence believe that getting the right information out to the public will empower citizens to spot irregularities when buying or acquiring land before it’s too late.

“We want to develop a social media app with simple language that citizens can use to learn about the different processes of buying land. The app will also connect land buyers to registered and trusted property agents.”

The team plans to get posters and flyers printed with all relevant information and hand these out in public places, as well as create shareable social media graphics with tips on how to avoid the land corruption trap.

For more information about the Land and Corruption in Africa programme contact the programme coordinator Annette Jaitner:

In the photo, from left, are Kayula Mulenga, Lucia Mahlanza, Nokubonga Ndima, Ray Mwareya and Ceaser Chembezi. Photo © Nicky Rehbock/Transparency International