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Lusaka, Kitwe councils’ suspension unconstitutional – Kasonde

CHAPTER One Foundation has urged Minister of Local Government Charles Banda to revise his decision to suspend the functions of the Lusaka and Kitwe city councils to ensure his actions do not continue to run contrary to the requirements of the Constitution.

But the Zambia Land Alliance says it stands with the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources on the suspension of Lusaka and Kitwe city councils for illegalities in land administration.

On Monday, Dr Banda announced the immediate suspension of the two councils for the next three months following alleged illegalities in land allocation by the respective councils and their mayors.

Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde said her organisation understands that the minister purportedly derived his powers to suspend the councils from sections 56 and 57 of the local government Act 2 of 2019 which state as follows, “56. The Minister may, by reason of the refusal, failure or inability of a council to adequately perform all or any of its functions, by statutory order – (a) appoint a public officer to be the Local Government Administrator for that council; and b)suspend all councillors of the council from performing all of their functions as councillors and empower the Local Government Administrator to discharge all the functions of the council and 57. (1) An order made by the Minister under section 56 shall, unless revoked, expire after ninety days of the date of making the order, except that the Minister may, in the interest of local administration, extend the order for further periods of ninety days at a time.”

Kasonde said sections 56 and 57 of the Act were in direct conflict with provisions contained in the Constitution, specifically Article 152 (2) and thus the minister’s decision was unconstitutional and should be reversed immediately.

She said Article 152 (2) of the Constitution states that, “The national government and the provincial administration shall not interfere with or compromise a local authority’s ability or right to perform its functions.”

“We believe that Article 152(2) was created to protect the rights and functions of local authorities from any interference from central and provincial administrations as a means to ensure functional efficiency, transparency and effectively at the local level. Given that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, its provisions supersede any other legislation that is in conflict with its values and principles,” she said in a statement. “Chapter One Foundation strongly urges the Minister of Local Government to revise his decision to suspend the functions of the two councils in order to ensure his actions do not continue to run contrary to the requirements of the Constitution.”

Kasonde called on the State to review the provisions in the local government Act as well as other legislation containing provisions that directly depart from the requirements of the Constitution to ensure that all leaders and citizens alike continue to uphold constitutional values and responsibilities at all levels of society, for posterity, protecting the state from any potential forms of anarchy.

But Zambia Land Alliance executive director Patrick Musole said the action taken was long overdue, considering the impunity with which local authorities have been perpetrating illegality in land administration.

“However, as the English say, better late than never. We hope this will send a warning to the rest of the councils in the country. Since the ministries of lands and local government are mandated to administer land on behalf of the President, they are required to demonstrate integrity and transparency in the manner land is administered for them to earn the trust of the general public,” he said.

Musole said for too long, there had been too many complaints by the general public about suspected corruption, lack of transparency and illegal land allocations in most of the councils around the country.

“We know that this is not the first time that these councils have been suspended, but we hope that this time around things will change for the better. We urge the Ministry of Lands itself and rest of the councils in Zambia to clean up their systems and improve land administration for the benefit of Zambian citizens,” said Musole.

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