Environmental activist Robert Chimambo says those working at the Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA) are afraid of losing their jobs if they intervened against Chinese companies flouting Zambian environmental regulations.
An investigation has shown that Mpande Limestone Mining company which is setting up a cement plant South East of Lusaka does not have a ZEMA approved Environmental Impact Assessment Report for its current specific location.
A representative of African Brothers, a Chinese company that owns Mpande Limestone Mine, Catherine Lu said the firm had engaged a local consultant to help deal with ZEMA requirement.
But Chimambo said Lu was confessing that she did not regard Zambia’s environmental law requirements.
“If you understood what that lady (Lu) was saying, she said when she came in Zambia she had the impression that she needed to do things by the book but there is corruption everywhere,” Chimambo observed.
“She (now) thinks corruption is what works. So, I wouldn’t blame the Chinese. I blame our system, the corrupt system, exactly what she was saying. That lady (Lu) is reflecting the corruption that is within us. The issue here is our corrupt system post-Kaunda, the Chiluba legacy. That project has all the hallmark of corruption if you ask me.”
Chimambo urged Zambians and none governmental organisations to step in and pressurise the government to revoke the mining license from Mpande until the company provided the EIA report.
“With issues like that and that story of yours, me I see a situation where we go to court and sue that the project was corruptly obtained. We should go to court and sue and stop that thing. That is what we need to be doing.”
“From a human rights position, that project shouldn’t even go ahead. Those same people (who were displaced) can sue under human rights. Their human rights have been violated. There are so many things that can be sued. The project itself doesn’t meet the standards.”
Chimambo pointed out that it is not ZEMA who will stop the project but the people.
“This is a clear case of Lower Zambezi where civil society and other interested parties moved in. Let people move in and stop that thing. Leaving it to ZEMA balebatanfya inchito balya bantu (those people will be chased from their jobs).”
The 70-year-old environmentalist said having been born in an industrial town of Kabwe, he had seen numerous examples of environmental impacts caused by unbridled industrialism.
“Me I’m an industrial child. I was born in Broken Hill. I know what that kind of development means. We saw what happened in Lower Zambezi,” he said referring to the case currently in court involving Zambezi Resources who wanted to mine in the national park.