Civil Rights activist Brebnar Changala has challenged government to breakdown the K370,000 spent on rehabilitating the Big Tree National Monument because it does not make sense.

And the Bank of Zambia is this Thursday expected to give journalists a tour of the tree in order for citizens appreciate its efforts.

On Monday, Zambia Daily Mail carried a story stating that the Big Tree National Monument, a fig tree locally known as Mukuyu located at Kabwe’s Freedom Way square, which appears on the K50 banknote has received a face lift after undergoing rehabilitation at a cost of K 370,000.

The state-owned newspaper reported that Bank of Zambia (BoZ), in partnership with the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC), funded the rehabilitation of one of the two national monuments in Kabwe.

But after the story was published on social media, netizens condemned government for wasting such an amount on rehabilitating a tree.

Kabwe Mayor Prince Chileshe then issued a statement explaining that it was the Bank of Zambia which rehabilitated areas surrounding the tree and not the local authority.

He stated that Bank of Zambia, through its Corporate Social Responsibility, adopted the Mukuyu tree heritage site declared in the 1950s and had periodically rehabilitated it according to their available resources and budget.

“The council did not spend any money or participate in the tendering process of any company to carry out the rehabilitation works at the Mukuyu Tree as that was done under the Bank of Zambia. So it is unfortunate that some media houses can be tools of propaganda at the expense of informing the nation on the process involved, stating clearly the sources of their information for people to make informed decisions based on verified information,” stated Chileshe.

“It is regrettable that the media has lost its meaning and value to national development and cannot be used by citizens to make informed decisions as can be seen in the rehabilitation of the Mukuyu tree story meant to portray the Council as being irresponsible to spend a huge sum of money on rehabilitation works amidst non-payment of salaries for council workers.”

But in an interview, Changala observed that there was no normal person who could associate themselves to such expenditure.

“The mayor has given out that statement because he believes that figure is unattainable. That’s why the mayor has come out very quickly to disassociate himself from that expenditure. He is very clever. There is no normal person who can associate himself to that kind of outrageous [figure]. How do you rehabilitate a tree that has been there longer than yourself? What do you add to that tree, do you make it grow bigger? Give you more flowers?” asked Changala.

“That is wasteful and must not be tolerated. That’s creating an avenue for theft of public funds. You cannot face lift a tree at such a cost. They must explain what else they have added to that tree for it to have value, either advertisements, marketing and the history background of the tree. They cannot rehabilitate a tree, that’s a natural occurrence. But the money they are saying they spent, it must be audited because that could have been stolen. Probably they have only spent K4,000 there and the rest is stolen. That figure is astronomical and does not match with the intended purpose, that could have been a conduit for whoever was involved to steal public funds.”

And when called to explain the cost, BoZ head of communications Kanguya Mayondi invited News Diggers to join other media institutions which would tour the heritage site on Thursday, where all questions would be answered.