In its quest for development, Zambia is pursuing a land policy that facilitates privatization of customary land. This article investigates the effects of privatization in terms of how it shapes people’s behaviour and perception of private tenure and related tenure dynamics. Findings have shown that the appetite to privatize land is growing stronger in peri‐urban areas as land becomes more scarce. Furthermore, privatization of land appears to be a threat to traditional political structures as allegiance and loyalty towards chiefs diminish and tension and struggles over land in peri‐urban areas increase. Similarly, privatization of land erodes people’s faith in the role that cultural and ancestral beliefs play in traditional land management. Also, people in rural areas tend to favour private tenure more if ‘privatization of customary land’ means allocation of land to outsiders. If, by contrast, the phrase is taken to mean communities registering their own land, peri‐urban communities tend to have a stronger desire to register land. Furthermore, rural communities were found to be less informed about land policy and seemed less keen to be involved in land policy processes when compared to peri‐urban residents. However, rural people may have no reason to inform themselves about land policy until they realise that the policy is likely to affect them.