Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji has overturned the decision of the Chongwe Municipal Council to order a stop to the construction of a Chinese memorial site in Silverest area saying the land was legitimately given to them in 2015.

Last week, the Chongwe Municipal Council had ordered an immediate stop to the construction of a Chinese cemetery in Silverest area.

Council assistant public relations manager Musonda Mino stated that the council had also instructed the site contractor Messr China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Zambia Limited to restore the land to its original state.

Mino had stated that the developer had been stopped from continuing with the works because he did not follow the procedure as the land in question was designated for agricultural purposes and not for cemetery.

But in an interview with News Diggers from Madagascar, Malanji said the land in question was legitimately given to the Chinese government in 2015.

“This land was legitimately given to them and there was even an official hand over in 2015 and as government, we have a trail of records. Other people may complain that ‘how come this one is not buried here?’ it is the interest of the people that are remaining and it is the interest of whichever party wants to preserve history. And when you look at the area in question where these people want to put up a modern museum, it won’t be an ordinary site, it is something that even other people from all spheres of life would want to come and see where we are coming from. We seem to underrate the project but those that have benefited, you must look at what TAZARA has done. Even the TAZAMA pipeline is under the corridors of TAZARA. So every day we are getting fuel through that and if people want to trivialise…[network breaking],” Malanji said.

Malanji said the Chinese Embassy had been allowed to put up a museum on the same piece of land for all their nationals who died during the construction of the TAZARA pipeline.

“When you look at that project [and] when I went there, I went into the fact finding mission because I was not there when it was given to the mission, so I went to see what exactly we are talking about. And it’s not a chunk of land as people treat or exaggerate, it is a very small piece of land I think about 50×50 and nothing much. And what grave yard can be put on a 50x 50 piece of land? It is a museum [and] not a graveyard. They will put those skeletons of the people that died during the construction of TAZARA and that will be all. And the rest of the other place…because they are going to put up a museum that will show on how the TAZARA was built? What was the height of the Zambian economy, the Chinese economy? There is a lot that is related and even the companies that have been involved to build that museum. It is the same company that was engaged in building the TAZARA,” Malanji said.

He said the procedure to have the change of use documents on the said land had already started.

“I must understand where they (Chongwe Municipal Council) are coming from because the place in question was already on title. So their concern has already been attended to, the change of use has already been attended to. You know it’s different if the place was not on title because they could have gone to Chongwe council to apply, but this is a piece of land which is already on title. So it as just a matter of putting a boundary around it and start construction. So I think what they will need is an application for change of use which has already been done just to put the record on paper,” said Malanji.