I will deal with Chongwe residents if they react angrily to the establishment of a nuclear research centre in their area because we are not going to move it, says Minister of Higher Education Professor Nkandu Luo.
And Prof Luo says Zambia is full of negative energy such that people oppose anything that comes their way.
Last month, Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II of the Soli people of Chongwe and her subjects rejected government’s proposal to build the nuclear research centre in their chiefdom fearing ramifications of nuclear emissions.
“I’m here as your chief, the custodian and I’m the chair of this meeting. We are going to discuss this matter freely, whether it will be in a friendly manner or there will be sharp reactions because people are not happy about it. We need to handle it well, that’s what we are looking at. We have not come to fight but just to be told about this nuclear plant coming or being [proposed to be constructed] in our chiefdom, which we needed to be briefed about. When government is making decisions, if that government is for the people, by the people and for the people, they need to do consultations but minus consultations, I think it’s not good enough in my view,” said Chieftainess Nkomeshya when Prof Luo met Chongwe residents.
But in a ministerial statement to Parliament, Thursday, Prof Luo said the PF government was embarking on a nuclear science and technology program to power the country’s economy.
“The Patriotic Front government, in our party manifesto on page 61, states as follows; ‘in the next five years, the PF government shall promote investments in alternative energy sources such as thermo, electricity generation from coal, as well as nuclear reactions’. It is in this context that the President of this Republic, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, during his inaugural address to this August House announced that Zambia will pursue nuclear technology and its application as part of a diversified sustainable energy mix to power Zambia’s economy. And in keeping with PF manifesto, the basis upon which this government was ushered into office, government is embarking on a nuclear science and technology program,” Prof Luo said.
However, Bweengwa UPND member of parliament Kasautu Michelo asked how government would handle the people of Chongwe if they reacted angrily to government’s insistence.
“I observed it myself in one of those televisions, the people of Chongwe refused that nuclear you want to put in Chongwe. Are you going to manage to handle the situation again if those people react angry,” asked Michelo.
In response, Prof Luo said, “The population of Chongwe is huge and the people he watched were in a small mayor’s parlour. But let me say that if they react I will be able to handle them.”
Mangango UPND member of parliament Naluwa Mweene also wondered whether government had any other place in mind to set up the center after Chongwe residents had refused the proposal.
But Prof Luo maintained that the center would be in Chongwe because the land in question belonged to government.
“People in Zambia are entitled to their own opinion. And the people of Chongwe believed that we are going to set up a nuclear school and that’s what they were objecting to. But we are going to set up a Nuclear Science and Technology centre. The land in question in Chongwe is a titled land, therefore its actually government land and it is already involved in these activities. NIRSA, actually if you visit it you will find a small center where we are doing nuclear science. In any case Mr Speaker, after people watched that video, I have received numerous calls for people saying ‘if they don’t want it bring it to us’. However, for now the Nuclear Science and Technology center remains at the site that we have title for and at the site which belongs to NISIR,” she said.
Kabwe Central PF member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube suggested that nuclear center be moved to Kabwe.
“Minister I have heard your statement very clearly. The people of Chongwe have said that they don’t want this facility anywhere near their place. The people of Kabwe are ready to receive this facility even today. Are you willing, minister, to bring this facility to Mulungushi textiles since its not working so that at least there can be some activity in Kabwe?” asked Ngulube.
However, Prof Luo maintained that the center would stay in Chongwe.
“The National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR) which is premised in a land in Chongwe was set up many years ago in the 70s by Dr Kenneth Kaunda. Chongwe is big so give us an opportunity to be able to sensitize everybody there and get their opinion. Let me tell you, I will be so glad to take it somewhere else but for now it stays in Chongwe,” she said.
And Prof Luo said there was too much negative energy in Zambia.
“We are coming to different places to sensitise about this program. Sometimes people have negative energies because they don’t understand the program but as soon as they understand the program a lot of people will be happy. It is massive investment its going to change the entire economic drive of this country. Let me also use this opportunity, Mr Speaker, this country amazes me. I have never seen a country where there is such negative energies. Anything that comes people must oppose. We can not be able to move in the direction that we want to move, when anything good is coming to the country, we start exerting negative energies,” said Prof Luo.
Meanwhile, Prof Luo said the program was being funded and supported by the Russian government, the International Atomic Agency and the Zambian government, in response to a question by Chikankata UPND MP Kabwe Mwiinga.