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If we had principled ministers, they would have advised Lungu on forest No. 27 – Harrington

 

WILLIAM Harrington has asked why President Edgar Lungu and his ministers are quiet on the plight of Chalimbana residents concerning forest reserve No. 27, east of Lusaka.

Harrington says many Zambians have discovered the value of land but that the commodity, mainly, is being allocated without following laid down procedures.

In a petition to President Lungu dated July 21, 2019, Harrington, a former minister of environment and natural resources from 1995 to 1996 and a keen environmentalist, bemoaned the destruction of the forest reserve No. 27, which is the aquifer for the city of Lusaka.

He told the President that the time he was privileged to serve as a minister under the Frederick Chiluba administration, he received a petition from over 2,500 members of the community within Chalimbana river catchment area to have the Lusaka east local forest area re-gazetted following its de-gazetting by the Kenneth Kaunda regime to facilitate security infrastructure.

Harrington said he recently toured the area after the matter was brought to his attention and that he was shocked to see the extent of the environmental damage being caused to the forest through residential and road construction works and charcoal production.

“I was also very reliably informed that the developments are taking place when environmental impact assessment (EIA) has not been undertaken as by law required, without consultation with and approval of the director of forestry as custodian of all forests in the country,” Harrington noted.

“I did a search of the lands register and found that amongst the beneficiaries of the land scam are one Douglas Msimuko who was issued with certificate of title (cot) no. Ct 42491 dated 27/03/2018, Madison Life Insurance company – cot no. Ct 49696 dated 08/10/2018, one Japhen Mwakalombe (Chongwe member of parliament and current Copperbelt minister) – cot no. Ct 40301 dated 20/01/2018, one Trevor Kaunda – cot no. 32797 dated 30/10/2017, one Kaluba Dominic – cot no. 49673 dated 16/10/2018, one Irene Chirwa Mambilima (Chief Justice of Zambia) – cot no. 48914 dated 01/10/2018, one Jean Kapata (current lands and environment minister)- cot no. Ct 38295 dated 21/11/2017, Isimaka Limited – cot no. Ct 38735 dated 05/12/2017.”

Others given land titles in the area where State Lodge is located and where a new one is planned to be constructed, are Harry Findlay – cot no. 38385 dated 08/11/2017, Stephen Mwaba – cot no. 36597 dated 06/10/2017, Yetissun Zambia Limited cot no. 37078 dated, Chisha Kaunda – cot no. 36598 dated 06/10/2017, Akbar Yusuf Badat – cot ct no. 37795 dated 13/11/2017, Richard Musukwa – cot no. 39210 dated 21/12/2017, Nyangu Phiri – cot no. 4330 dated 27/04/2018, amongst others.

Vice-President Wina is also a beneficiary of land in the area, according to Harrington.

During the Vice-President’s Question Time on Friday last week, Vice-President Wina told Parliament that forest reserve No. 27 had been hived off for residential occupation.

She, however, noted that the forest was still there and that the source of the Chalimbana River was still preserved in its natural state.

The Vice-President was responding to Katombora UPND member of parliament Derrick Livune who asked if the forest in question had been de-gazetted.

On Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy programme on Monday night, Harrington observed that political party cadres seemed to be getting priority over land issues.

“Government officials have always said it that there’s too much interference from people in land allocation. Sometimes it (land) is given corruptly, sometimes two, three people holding the same title. It shows that there’s something wrong in the land administration in this country. There is just too much vested interests in land allocation,” Harrington said.

“The issue at hand here [is] the controversial Lusaka east local forest reserve No. 27. It’s not a new issue because it was there from the time of the colonial administration; that’s the time the forest reserve was gazetted. But we see that today part of that land….”

He indicated that Vice-President Wina’s response on the matter in Parliament was: “very unfortunate.”

“She was trying to justify the allocation of plots, almost 110 plots in that forest reserve…. It’s not just an ordinary development there; these are plots for residential housing developments which some people in higher offices [like] the Chief Justice, Mr Speaker, the Minister [of Lands] herself Jean Kapata, Japhen Mwakalombe, the MP for Chongwe….” he noted, insisting that the plots in question were never advertised in any media.

“So, the whole thing for me is an illegality. Land is being allocated in environmentally sensitive areas. This is the problem we have in this country; land is not being administered properly. But because of politics, cadres want plots – there is a big demand for plots.”

He wondered why Zambians have opted to keep quiet: “about this illegality.”

“If our ministers could advise the President to help him to make enlightened decisions, I wonder he would have signed the SIs (Statutory Instruments) to de-gazette it to allow for housing development,” Harrington noted.

The concerned Statutory Instruments are No. 62 of 2017 and No. 59 of 2018 that resulted in the deletion and alteration of the existing boundaries of forest reserve No. 27 to pave way for residential and other developments.

This is in total disregard of the plight of the local community as expressed in their petition of 1994.

Harrington further disclosed that he intends to officially write to the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) to find out whether it was consulted on forest reserve No.27.

“If not, why? I want to go to the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA); why didn’t they do an environmental impact assessment as per law required? I know the environmental impact assessment regulations because I regulated them as minister,” he said.

Harrington hinted a possibility of him seeking a legal route in the matter but is tentative because: “the difficult I have is that you have somebody from the judiciary [owning a plot at forest 27]. How do I win?”

Meanwhile, Harrington wondered if there were brave and candid ministers in the PF government who could correctly advise President Lungu.

“Some of us are brave enough to tell the President when he is right and when he is wrong. But do we have that minister today? Maybe very few! If we had ministers who are principled, they would have advised President Lungu to withdraw this SI immediately,” noted Harrington.

“For example, 22 of us were fired from government for saying ‘president Chiluba, we are your real friends and one day you will remember us; don’t go for a third term’. We told him point blank [but] he didn’t like it. He fired us but I walk with my head high because we were standing for the people. We were defending the people’s Constitution. Why can’t our President and people in government defend the interests of these people in Chalimbana? Why are they keeping quiet? It’s unfortunate!”

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