A DIRECTOR of Zambia Air Force Projects Limited has told the Lusaka High Court that Zambia Air Force owns ZAF Projects Limited, which is constructing Kingsland City near Chalimbana river catchment area in Chongwe.
This is in a matter where nine Chongwe headmen and Chalimbana River Headwaters Conservation Trust have sued Zambia Air Force Projects Limited and four others for putting up structures on the Lusaka east forest reserve.
Moses Lukwanda, senior headmen Maoma and Nkomenshya and eight others are seeking an order of the court to compel the Zambia Air Force Projects Limited, Kingsland City Investments Limited, Drimtown Investments Limited, Shangrila Investments Limited and Datong Construction Limited to obey protection order of September 22, 2017 and an order declaring that the developments are a threat not only to the Chalimbana river catchment but greater Lusaka Aquifer System.
When the matter came up for cross-examination before High Court judge Mwila Chitabo, Edgar Lungu told court that he was not aware that the Zambia Air Force cannot own a company.
When asked by the complainant’s counsel Mutembo Nchito if plaintiffs were complaining that the project did not comply with the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) rules, Lungu confirmed that the residents had complained about the project as it posed a threat to the Chalimbana river.
He denied that ZAF was constructing on the land before the court restrained it through an injunction granted to the complainants, claiming that it was only maintaining the premises.
“The project by ZAF Projects Limited involved the provision of social amenities to the already existing ZAF developing project because ZAF did not have the capacity to develop the said social amenities hence the partnership with other companies,” Lungu explained.
“It was a mixed set-up for the construction of houses, schools, hotels and hospitals and play parks. The construction of Kingsland City had commenced before the injunction was granted to the plaintiffs.”
Lungu confirmed to the court that ZEMA required ZAF Projects Limited and other parties to subject themselves to the detailed components of the project.
He also affirmed that the project implementation shall only commence once ZAF Projects Limited complied with the requirements of the Water Resources Management Act 21 of 2011 and provides proof to the agency.
He, however, expressed ignorance when he was asked to confirm whether or not the ZAF Project Limited had complied with the Water Resources Management Act.
Lungu said the ZAF Companies Project Limited had not prepared a comprehensive hydraulic report of the Chalimbana river catchment settlement prior to the project implementation.
He further stated that he was not sure if the detailed sewerage management plan had been approved by ZEMA.
The witness also claimed that no boreholes have been sunk at the construction site except the one sunk at management offices.
Lungu further confirmed that ZEMA had issued directives to stop construction works not until it was connected to Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company and claimed that the construction works were halted but that ZAF Companies Project Limited continued maintaining the premises.
“We did not continue building houses after ZEMA stopped us. The building of Kingsland City started in 2016. If ZAF continued with construction works despite the order from ZEMA, it was wrong. I wouldn’t know if ZEMA had approved the construction of the project,” said Lungu.
And Robert Chimambo, a secretary of the Chalimbana River Head Waters Conservation Trust said that Chalimbana river has been polluted with faecal matter since the project to put up a suburb called Kingsland City was commenced.
He said some years ago, stakeholders comprising small-scale farmers around the forest reserve formed the Chalimbana River Head Waters Trust to protect the critical ground water recharge area.
When asked by Attorney General Likando Kalaluka if at all he had any qualifications in water management or engineering, the farmer said he had no qualifications but said as a farmer, he was qualified to manage water, even if he was not a hydrologist.
When asked if he had conducted an underground assessment of the water aquifer system in Chalimbana as he claimed in the affidavit in support of statement of claim that “the plaintiffs have commenced an action against the defendants challenging the first to fifth defendants construction works on the ecologically and environmentally sensitive forest reserve no. 27 where a critical and sensitive underground water recharge area known as the Chalimbana River Catchment is located”, Chimambo responded in the negative.
The farmer denied having an idea of the total sum that the Kingsland City project would cost.
When asked if he would atone for the damage that might be caused as a result of an ex-parte injunction in which the court ordered a stop to the works, Chimambo said he did not make any undertaking to pay damages that would be caused as a result of the injunction.
When asked by Zambia Airforce Projects in-house counsel Colonel C. Nambote if Zambia Air Force Twinpalm housing project was contaminating the aquifer and that the project might further contaminate the aquifer, the witness responded in the affirmative.
“As we are talking now, the Chalimbana river has been polluted with feacal matter,” Chimambo said.
When queried if he had brought any report, be it a contamination report or pollution report by an expert before court to prove that Chalimbana river was contaminated, the 72-year-old told justice Chitabo that the report exists though he did not produce it before court.
“Your honour, it is not safe to say that residents are safe to drink water from the water reserves, it is not safe to assume that Lusaka residents have clean water because forest reserve number 26 is completely degraded,” Chimambo said.
“Your honour I have seen it with my eyes, the site where the sewerage effluent of ZAF Twinpalm go is in the Chalimbana river. The sewer effluent has been diverted into the Chalimbana river.”
The matter comes up on July 5, for submissions.