(By Edwin Mbulo in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)
YOU have no moral right to talk about the rights of Zambians when it’s your government that tortures those that want to harness natural resources responsibly, chief Hamusonde has told President Edgar Lungu.
On Monday during a plenary session at the African Union/United Nations Africa Wildlife Economy Summit attended by Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Namibia’s Hage Geigob, Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi and Angola’s foreign minister Paula Francesca, President Lungu said individual governments should work out strategies to engage communities to appreciate wildlife.
“The rights of people are paramount. Do we have the capacity to promote their rights once we grow wildlife?” he asked. “We should have mechanisms to protect the rights of people since we have identified wildlife as a source of income.”
President Lungu said there was also need to devise mechanisms to protect crop fields for communities in game management areas.
He said if this was not done then it was not worth it to talk about wildlife economy.
But chief Hamusonde of Bweengwa in Monze district said the recent torture of fishermen at Lukeng’a in his area nullified the Head of State’s comments.
“Looking at the misery that my people faced at his (President Lungu) instructions was unwarranted. Imagine a church (SDA) was set ablaze, women and children tortured and traumatised and he says people’s rights are paramount. Those people were merely harvesting God’s creation (fish) in a responsible manner and not in a game park but in a game management area,” Hamusonde said.
He said President Lungu should have shown other Heads of State the pictures of his operation using armed security officers in choppers in Bweengwa against defenceless women, children and men.
“It is sad that His Excellency could suggest that communities in game management areas need to benefit significantly from wildlife resources…he even says communities must have a sense of ownership of wildlife. Imagine that he could say that it is unfortunate that the lives of some members of the communities have not changed when some elite people seem to be benefiting more from the wildlife resources,” said Hamusonde. “I challenge him to come here and tell the fishermen he tortured and not his friends (Presidents).”
Early this month, about 500 settlers that include fishermen in Likeng’a village in chief Hamusonde’s chiefdom in Bweengwa Constituency were left in the cold after their makeshift shelters and other belongings were burnt by government officers for allegedly practicing illegal fishing methods.
Confirming the development, Bweengwa UPND lawmaker Kasauta Michelo described the action taken by the government as barbaric and terrible.
Kasauta said it was shocking that the government would take such an action on its people instead of sensitising them on good fishing methods.
Kasauta said Bweengwa residents would defend the victims because “we are One Zambia One Nation.
“These people, victims of a terrible action are our brothers. We don’t even want to play politics because this is a matter of life and death,” he said. “Among the victims whose house has been burnt down is from Mpika but he’s a village headman under chief Hamusonde of the Tonga people in Bweengwa.”
Kasauta said both the young and old were not spared in the exercise comprising the Zambia army, Zambia Air Force, Zambia Police, ZAWA, intelligence (OP) and Drug Enforcement Commission.
“They came in a helicopter and started brutalising and burning their houses. People in the process lost their essential belongings among them NRCs, voters cards, money, mealie-meal, chickens, goats, blankets… And as we are speaking right now an old man and a three-year-old child are missing. We are scaling up efforts to locate them,” said Kasauta./