Subjects in Shaputu Village in Mumbwa District have risen against Senior Chief Shakumbila whom they accuse of grabbing 7,650 hectares of land from them and turning it into a commercial lease for a company in which he has vested interest.

Residents are alleging that Chief Shakumbila used a non-existing company and forged names and signatures of his illiterate subjects to dubiously acquire huge chunks of land for himself and his partners’ interests.

And Chief Shakumbila admitted that although he does not own the company in question, he had vested interest in it, and argued that the people claiming its ownership did not follow procedure in the way they were airing their grievances.

Narrating to News Diggers! on behalf of Headman Shaputu, a village representative named Rueben Shikabwali explained that the land in question is communal land which is used by villagers to graze about 11,000 herds of cattle.

Shikabwali explained that Senior Chief Shakumbila had been displacing villagers in his Chiefdom by threatening their headmen with abolishment of their villages.

“Companies that belong to Chief Shakumbila and his partners have illegally and secretly applied for the issuance of tittle deed under file No. 127041 for the 7,650 Ha of land in Shibuyunji District without our consent as stakeholders and all the villages that are affected. The larger portion of the land in question is Shaputu Village, and as residents of Shaputu, we have not given consent to the allocation of this land to Avlow Development Company/Green Gold Sala Ltd or indeed to Avlow Zambia Ltd and we have never been consulted in any way. We cannot allocate this land to any investor because this is a communal land used for grazing of about 11,000 herds of cattle, goats… it is also used for crop farming by the Shibuyunji community. The documents that have been lodged to the Ministry of Lands purportedly containing names of villagers supporting the acquisition of the land are forged [by] the same people who are illegally trying to obtain this land. The people whose names appear on the Memorandum of Understanding actually belong to Shaputu Village and not Mulowa as purported on the MoU. Some of the names of the people appearing on Schedule A of the MoU have never signed the MoU,” Shikabwali narrated.

“It is intriguing as some of the people appearing on the document are in fact illiterate and, therefore, unable to read or write, but are purported to have signed the document. Then Schedule B for Sitali Village has only six names when the number of people residing in this village is more than six, which is an anomaly as it means that the interest of others has not been taken into consideration. In addition, these people have never signed the document, but their names and signatures were just forged by the people mentioned above. Similarly, Schedule C for Shichumpalubanje Village has only three names and signatures of the people who have never signed the document and all the occupants of this village are unaware that Avlow Development Company/ Green Gold Sala Ltd or indeed Avlow Zambia Limited have applied for the issuance of a tittle deed regarding the land they are subsisting on.”

He explained that the same Memorandum of Understanding, which the Chief presented to the council when applying for land, was actually not signed by the legitimate headmen cited in the document.

“An example being Shicoonda who is not a headman of Sitali Village, but a council member at the Chief’s Palace. Further, Mr B Shimpaluyangi, who purportedly signed the document as headman Shichumpalubanje does not even exist. The headman at the material time (November, 2016) was Mr Bernard Nduulwa who was illiterate and, therefore, could neither read nor write. And the District Council Secretary, Mr Dominic Mwanaumo Simasiku, made a recommendation to the Ministry of Lands for the issuance of a tittle deed to Avlow Development Company Ltd, an entity that did not exist in 2010, but was only formed and incorporated on 7th August, 2012. How did the Council Secretary for Mumbwa District recommend a company that did not exist to get 7,650 Ha? This whole process is mired in corruption and abuse of office on the part of the-then traditional leadership and his partners,” he lamented.

Shikabwali explained that Senior Chief Shakumbila had been displacing villagers in his Chiefdom by threatening their headmen with abolishment of their villages.

“You may also wish to know that the Chief has been illegally trying to sell Shaputu Village for his own interests, but we have been objecting to that. On 24th November, 2009, he wrote a letter abolishing Shaputu headmanship under the guise of indiscipline and prior to that, he had appealed to the District Commissioner for assistance in resolving the issue of land in which he was trying to acquire land without our consent. After the Chief failed to heed the DC’s advice, the matter was taken to court and the matter was disposed of in 2012 with the verdict going in our favour. Whilst this matter was going on in the courts of law, the Chief and his partners were secretly processing title deeds for the same land through Mumbwa District Council under Avlow Zambia Limited, a company he has interest in,” he complained.

Shikabwali regretted that the land, which the Chief had been pursuing, was already developed and that if he was granted ownership, then all the property sitting on that land would become his.

“As people of Sala, and Shaputu Village in particular, we have lived on this land for ages and have buried our ancestral fathers. It is our treasured heritage and, therefore, we cannot even tolerate the idea of parceling it to any other person. Besides, this land is fully-occupied and in full use by us residents who do not wish to be evicted. The land has got a number of development including the following; 20 boreholes, 14 of which were done by government through Constituency Development Fund (CDF), while the other six were done by the community. Two dip tanks, one facilitated from the CDF and one by the community. Currently, we have four schools that would fall into the Chief’s personal possession. Of the four schools, three are owned by the government and one by the community. There is also a 12 kilometre stretch of graded road, which was facilitated by CDF, administered through Shibuyunji District Council. Surely, looking at this development from both government and the community, we are in anguish to understand the reasoning of the Chief and his partners because these properties would become their private properties if the certificate of title deed is issued to them,” Shikabwali said.

The community has since called on government to intervene.

“We have already reported Mr Mubanga Chanda, Headman Anderson Mulowa and Headman Sitali, Chief Shakumbila, Kafumbwe K Dominic, Mwanaumo Simasiku of Mumbwa District Council, to the law enforcement agencies so that the fraudulent activities that are mentioned in the documents are thoroughly investigated and those involved brought to book. We have also been in talks with the Ministry of Lands and Natural resources so that through the Ministry, we could seek an audience in order to have a more detailed discussion in this matter,” said Shikabwali.

But when contacted, Chief Shakumbila charged that his subjects did not follow procedure in the manner they expressed their grievances.

“My friend, I think you understand me clearly. That land which is being talked about by that group of people, they have never brought it to my attention that they are injured or they are disturbed. Because that is the normal procedure. If there is anything of that nature. And actually, even the people involved are not from that village. If anything, it is not now when this land was allocated to Avlow Zambia, it was in 2010 and that is long long ago. It was Shichumpalubanje, Sitali and Mulowa villages [who were involved], only three villages. That village (Shaputu) is not even involved. And I have no comment over that because the procedure is very clear, where one has a complaint, they have got to follow the procedure,” Chief Shakumbila said in a separate interview.

Asked if it was true that his company was not registered at the time the land was acquired, Senior Chief Shakumbila said it was not his company, adding that he could not discuss the matter any further.

“No no no… that’s not my company. And listen… those are questions which I cannot answer you on the phone, if you need more information you better come and see me personally,” said chief Shakumbila.

Asked if it was true that despite not being the owner of the company, it was close to him, the chief responded saying “yes”.

Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), through its Senior Assistant Commissioner Fedrick Chishala, confirmed that they had received the letter of complaint from community members and were working on the matter by press time.