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GEARS urges Harrington to seek tribunal over land ownership of forest reserve No. 27

GEARS Initiative says William Harrington should consider requesting the Chief Justice to appoint a tribunal to investigate the matter of land ownership by lands minister Jean Kapata, among other prominent citizens, in forest reserve No. 27.

In a petition dated July 21, 2019, Harrington petitioned President Edgar Lungu to stop the rot, corruption and environmental degradation taking place at Lusaka east local forest reserve No. 27 where Vice-President Inonge Wina, the Chief Justice, Cabinet ministers and businessmen have been given land.

Harrington, a keen environmentalist and former environment and natural resources minister, bemoaned the destruction of the forest area, which is the aquifer for the city of Lusaka.

A few weeks ago during the Vice-President’s Question Time, Vice-President Wina told Parliament that forest reserve 27 had been hived off for residential occupation.

“[But] what has happened is that a portion of it was indeed hived off so that we could create space for residential occupation. So the forest is still there and the source of the Chalimbana River is still preserved in its natural state. I thank you,” responded Vice-President Wina to Katombora UPND member of parliament Derrick Livune’s question.

In a press statement on Monday, Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) Initiative Zambia executive director McDonald Chipenzi stated that the law provided that any citizen could apply to the Chief Justice to appoint a tribunal to investigate if a minister or member of parliament had used their position to gain pecuniary advantage in such matters as land allocation.

Chipenzi indicated that GEARS Initiative Zambia was calling for the appointment of a tribunal by the Chief Justice, as provided for under the parliamentary and ministerial code of conduct Act of the Laws of Zambia.

He stated that such tribunal should investigate whether or not Kapata had breached the law by allocating herself a plot in the controversial Lusaka east local forest reserve No.27.

“Since Honourable William Harrington, who is also a former Cabinet minister in the [Frederick] Chiluba administration, has been on this matter and has relevant experience in land issues, we challenge him to seriously consider applying to the CJ (Chief Justice) to appoint a tribunal,” Chipenzi stated.
“We challenge him to take up the challenge in the public and national interest to seriously request the CJ to immediately appoint a tribunal to investigate the matter of forest reserve No.27 as he has vast experience in tribunals, in particular the Dora Siliya and Sylvia Masebo tribunals.”

He stressed that the issue of forest reserve No. 27 was of interest to GEARS Initiative Zambia as it bordered on good governance, transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs by those entrusted to do so.

“We pray that the Chief Justice will be magnanimous enough to, if Mr Harrington agrees to petition her, set up the tribunal so that the truth is known to all Zambians on how Jean Kapata allocated herself land in the controversial forest reserve as a sitting Minister of Lands,” stated Chipenzi.

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