PEOPLE that are objecting the commencement of mining in the lower Zambezi National Park should travel to the area before they can say a anything, says chief Mpuka of Luangwa district.
Chief Mpuka says Luangwa is underdeveloped and lacks economic activities hence the need for the mine to be set up quickly.
A debate erupted after the Lusaka High Court gave a go ahead to a mining operation in the Lower Zambezi National Park with several people calling for the revocation of the license.
But chief Mpuka says those calling for the revocation of the mining permit have no understanding of the area.
“I condemn certain chiefs who are saying this mine should not go ahead. It’s not in their chiefdom, the mine is in senior chief Mburuma’s chiefdom. These are the people that need to be asked first in Luangwa district,” chief Mpuka said.
“People in the district want the mine; there are no jobs here. Even the fish you hear about, it comes from Mozambique, people go all the way to Mozambique, buy fish then take it to Lusaka. There are no economic activities here. Even the money they make from those lodges, have they contributed anything to Luangwa Council? I have never heard anything.”
He added that the recent media reports on the wildlife at the mining site were false.
“Those white people I saw on TV are not from here and have never stepped foot here. Even those pictures they were showing of hippos and elephants are not nearer to the mine. Chiawa is far away from the mine.
“In fact, the animals they are trying to defend, they are airlifting them to other places that we don’t know. They can come and challenge me. Most of the species, especially the cats family, are depleted in this area; where you find animals, it’s Chiawa, not here, so which animals are they protecting?” chief Mpuka wondered.
“The court has ruled, are we challenging the court ruling? Isn’t that contempt? I don’t know why they can’t be cited for contempt. Those talking about development, let them come to Luangwa and we shall tell them what we want. We have suffered enough.”
Chief Mpuka appealed to President Edgar Lungu to hear the people of his chiefdom.
“Go and tell the President, people in Luangwa want the mine. That mine is in Luangwa district, it is not in Chiawa, it’s not in Chongwe, Mr. President I beg, your words were right, give us that mine, it’s our mine, we know people from Chiawa will also benefit once mining commences,” he said.
“Minister of Lusaka (Bowman Lusambo) should come here so that he hears what we are going to say to him. In South Africa, we have a mine next to a national park, in Australia the same, so it’s only our small mine that will disturb the whole world? No, let them change and leave the issue to us the owners in Luangwa district.”
Meanwhile Wise Mpande a 35-year-old youth of Luangwa said the unemployment in the area was rife and the mine would alleviate the problem.
“We welcome the mine, especially that we have a problem of unemployment here in Luangwa district. The only common money making venture we have is fishing but the fish is depleting in the water and a lot of people want to engage in fishing but they are unable because of the rarity of fish and this problem is growing and so the issue of the mine is coming at the right time and we welcome it as a source of alternative income for the people,” Mpande said.
“A lot of youths complete school but they end up in he society and start drinking alcohol. It’s not like they wish for that, it’s lack of economic activities in this place, no one has a talent in drinking alcohol. Mining is lucrative in all parts of the country and a way to earn forex, just the same as farming and tourism. Farming has drought challenges but at least a mine will bring us happiness.”
Mpande added that those objecting the setting up of the mine: “Are not privy to our problems. A mine will help us get employed, even the country will benefit. Those proposing otherwise are on the safe side but what of us the unemployed? We need equal opportunities for all, allow us the youth to get employed and make a living out of this mine. My appeal to the government is that they should not listen to those objecting, no.”
Another youth, Kayata Ndumba, lamented that the people objecting the setting up of the mine were comfortable.
“We have no issues against the mine because it is bringing us development. Mostly those who are objecting are people with sources of income with stable lives and have vested interest in the project but that should not be the case,” said Ndumba.
And Patricia Chitafo, also a youth of Luangwa, said ‘loafing around’ would lessen and the people can ‘even build better houses fit to be called our homes’, once mining commences.
“We have been hearing about this mining project and we are eagerly anticipating the start of the mining. A lot of people will benefit from this project. Development will come to Luangwa once this project commences, look at Copperbelt, they are developed because of mining. This is the reason why we want the mine to come here so much,” said another Youth Paul Zulu.