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Gender Minister battles land ownership with Silverest communityBy Sipilisiwe Ncube on 27 Apr 2019
The Waterfalls Neighbourhood Watch Association has written to Lands Minister Jean Kapata and other key government institutions to intervene in what they are calling as an illegal sale of government plots reserved for social amenities in the Silverest area.
The Association, represented by its chairman Dr Alex Ng’oma who is also UNZA lecturer, have complained that three plots, which were originally reserved for a market, police post and a clinic have so far been sold off by civil servants using dubious means.
They have also questioned how Gender Minister Elizabeth Phiri bought her 2.5 acres piece of land, which was reserved for a clinic in the area.
But Phiri in her defence showed News Diggers the letter of offer and title deed in her name, as proof of ownership for the land in question, adding that she bought it from a Mr Adam Banda.
“All the plots in Silverest were sold by the government and it was the Lusaka Province Planning Unit that actually demarcated all the plots in Silverest. And when the provincial planning unit was demarcating, it also reserved a number of plots for social amenities. One was reserved for a police post; one was reserved for a market and another for a clinic and many others. And then, when the advert came out to invite people to compete for the plots, the plots that were reserved for social amenities were not advertised because those were going to be government properties. So, we, the people, competed, applied and went for interviews and that’s how come we were given plots,” Dr Ngoma narrated.
“So, in the meantime, we, the members of the community, from 2014, knew that there were plots reserved for a police post, a market and a clinic. And so, we wrote letters to the Minister of Lands asking that offer letters be given to the people so that the people can move on-site. And I remember, personally, I went to see Mr Mwansa Kapeya when he was Minister of Lands and he issued instructions to his people, saying please write offer letters. So, the plots we are talking about were specifically reserved for social amenities. Now, over the years, there has been these manoeuvres where the plot for the police post has been sold corruptly by officers from Ministry of Lands and the person sold it to himself! The second plot, which was reserved for the market, was also sold corruptly just like that. Again, in this particular one, the Minister has taken over the land reserved for a clinic.”
He charged that there was no application for change of land use from a clinic to a residential plot for the land which the minister now owns.
“So, it is not true that the Minister bought this plot from anyone. This was specifically reserved for a clinic and so before there can be change of use from a clinic to anything else, what is supposed to happen, according to government procedure, is that there is supposed to be an application put in for change of land use from a clinic to anything else and that was never done. Secondly, the Minister may claim that she bought it from somebody else [but] those are things that have happened in the first team as a cover-up. So, the correct position is that those are government plots. And all of us who bought plots in Silverest got our offer letters from the Ministry of Lands, which was selling. How come the Minister got her offer letter from Chongwe? And it was an offer letter where they crossed out a name in ink and put her name there? What kind of operation is that?” Dr Ngoma wondered.
He said before the title deed was obtained, the minister had been approached and told that the land she was trying to buy was reserved for a clinic but she did not want to withdraw efforts.
“And before this even went anywhere, she was told that ‘this is a clinic plot’ but she never wanted to listen. We have inside information where she has been pushing and pushing until she finally got it! That is the problem. And when plots were offered to the people who applied, the names for all the people were published in the newspaper in October, 2010. And the person who demarcated the plots from the planning unit can confirm that this was reserved for a clinic. So, because of what the Minister has done, she has ended up with two plots in Silverest! The government cannot sell her two plots in one area when a chain of Zambians are waiting for plots! And how can she get a plot, which is four or five times bigger than the size of plots in Silverest? And the same Minister has been harassing somebody who in her constituency in Kanyama, who has taken over a plot, which was reserved for a sports field. So, on one hand, she is trying to protect a plot in her constituency, and in another place, she is taking over a plot reserved for the community! And as people, we are saying we want our plot back. You know, we have been running around with mothers in labour in the middle of the night because we don’t have a clinic nearby. Somebody picked up two ladies who delivered in the car being rushed to Levy Mwanawasa Hospital,” complained Dr Ngoma.
But when reached for comment, Phiri defended herself by presenting her title deed.
“You come and see the documents, land is not given by me, land is given by the Ministry of Lands. The same people that are making noise had sold that land to individuals and I got it from an individual who failed to develop. The first name that came out was in an individual name and that individual name failed to develop. It was even advertised. You can even go to the Ministry of Lands and find out the process on how it came into my name. I am a politician and I don’t want to be stained. If it was for the clinic or whatever they are claiming, if that plot was not in the name of anybody, my sister, I wouldn’t even have [bought it], but it was on a different name. Come home I show you all the documents,” Phiri explained.
After this reporter went to the Minister’s house, she presented a Certificate of Title for the said land.
“Now, instead of fighting me as a recipient of an offer, which came from Ministry of Lands, they would have gone to the Ministry of Lands and say: ‘you have allocated a plot to an individual, which was allocated for this.’ If you look at the plan by the Lusaka Planning [Unit], nobody in Silverest is sitting on the original plan because if you look at that complex, according to the original plan that was supposed to be churches or schools, but now, there are those houses. Look at that Chinese Memorial Park, it used to be for something else and there are Chinese who are sitting on bigger land than what I have. Do they think it is fair for foreigners to be getting bigger land than indigenous Zambians? And if they were to fight, they would have fought the Chinese and fight for that land, which is now going for a memorial,” she said.
Phiri added that she did not understand why the community wanted to fight her for her plot instead of fighting the Ministry of Lands or the person who sold it to her.
“If it was a fight, it [should] not be between me and the community, it is between the community and the Ministry, who actually gave them, because I am just a recipient and I don’t know why they are fighting me! Maybe, it’s because I am a politician. And they are using Diggers! because they know you dig deep. I have a legal document not given by myself, but by the Ministry. So, if there is whoever who stole from the community, it is not Elizabeth, it is the Ministry of Lands who allocated to me. And whoever will play around with that land, they will pay me!”
About Sipilisiwe Ncube
Sipilisiwe Ncube has a background in radio news.
Email: sipilisiwe [at] diggers [dot] news
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