GEARS Initiative Zambia hopes that the delay by the Chief Justice to respond to the request to set up a tribunal to investigate the happenings in forest reserve No. 27 of Lusaka East is not by design meant to bury the truth.
William Harrington and Robert Chimambo have applied to chief justice Ireen Mambilima to appoint a tribunal to investigate whether or not lands minister Jean Kapata was in breach of an Act when she acquired a small-holding plot in the de-gazetted part of Lusaka East local forest reserve No.27.
The concerned Act is the parliamentary and ministerial Code of Conduct Act Chapter 16 of the Laws of Zambia.
Harrington and Chimambo, who are all dedicated environmental advocates, have, of late, been raising alarm, in relation to the extent of the environmental damage being caused to forest reserve No.27 through residential and road construction works and charcoal production.
Harrington, a former environment and natural resources minister in Frederick Chiluba’s government, ignited a controversy surrounding plot ownership, especially by eminent Zambians, in forest reserve No. 27, east of Lusaka, when he petitioned President Edgar Lungu on July 21, 2019, bemoaning the destruction of the forest, which is the aquifer for the city of Lusaka.
In a petition to the chief justice dated August 19, 2019 and received by the Chief Justice’s Chambers, Harrington and Chimambo stated that due to overwhelming public demand and extensive consultations over the forestry matter, they, as concerned citizens, had a duty to officially lodge a complaint against Kapata, “consistent with the procedural requirement of the relevant Act.”
The chief justice, three weeks afterwards, is yet to respond to the duo’s petition.
Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) Initiative Zambia executive director McDonald Chipenzi, in a press release, indicated that his organisation was increasingly getting anxious at the reluctance by the Chief Justice to respond.
“GEARS Initiative Zambia notes that it is now close/above 14 days since the letter of petition was submitted to the Chief Justice pleading to her to appoint a tribunal to probe Ms Kapata but there has been a deafening silence from her office,” Chipenzi stated.
He stated that the public and the petitioners were increasingly losing patience over the matter and that the more the Chief Justice ignored the petition by Harrington and Chimambo, “the more people will continue to raise suspicions on her role in the matter.”
Chipenzi added that any failure by the Chief Justice to comply with the provisions of the parliamentary and ministerial code of conduct Chapter 16 of the Laws of Zambia would be detrimental to Zambia’s rule of law.
“GEARS Initiative Zambia believes that the petitioners complied with the provisions of the law in making their application to the Chief Justice and feel strongly that there is no basis for the Chief Justice to deny them their constitutional and legal right to be heard through a tribunal in public and national interest,” stated Chipenzi.
“The people of Zambia, in general, and those of Lusaka and Chongwe, in particular, deserve and are in fact demanding to know the truth regarding the sharing of plots in forest reserve No. 27. We pray that the delays are not by design meant to frustrate the setting of the tribunal and bury the truth.”