William Harrington has asked President Edgar Lungu to use his executive powers to revoke the Statutory Instruction which has allowed the degazetting of Forest 27.
And Harrington says applying for a tribunal in the matter will be costly and difficult as it will have to be headed by Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima, whom he claims is an interested party in the matter.
Speaking on Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy programme, Monday, Harrington said President Lungu should do what is morally right and help protect the thousands of people who will be affected by the continued land encroachment.
“Out f 1,700 hectares, slightly over a thousand has been [left] off, which means the state, through the SI President Lungu signed, has left only a third of the original size of the forest. This is disaster. I think for a lack of a better word, it is criminal to do that to the whole people. It’s an injustice to the people and the environment. I want to reveal that a week ago on Wednesday, 7th of August 2019, I did lodge a petition…I wanted the President to consider withdrawing or cancelling the three Statutory Instruments, that is SI number 62 of 2017, SI number 59 of 2018 and SI number 13 of 2019 which degazetted Lusaka local forest number 27. I am yet to get a response and my prayer is that he will search his heart, search his conscience and do what is morally right for the people in that area…And it is not just this (Forest 27); this is just a tip of the iceberg. Most of the forest reserves, especially in river head waters, are being [degazetted] for the benefit of a few people…” Harrington said.
He warned that the degazetting of the forest may cost the PF the 2021 general elections.
“It’s a fact that the plots were allocated and given out to certain people and I don’t want to be political here. I am like John Sangwa; I look at issues with non political lenses. I look at issues and how they impacts on the people but the thing is this it is an open secret that the buck stops at the Minister of Lands, on her table. She got to approve those things before allocating land and title deeds…the Commissioner of Lands has to get her approval, she has got to see the file,” Harrington said.
“The Chief Justice has a plot there and I am (not sure ) whether [she] has surrendered that plot now. That this thing is blowing into other people’s faces. The Chief Justice, the Speaker, the Minister herself. Now I wrote to the President in my letter saying ‘Mr President, I have attached a petition signed in 1994 for the ease of reference’, and I explained to him ‘I doubt you would have degazetted had your Minister made you aware of that petition’, because surely, could our humble President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, have signed that SI? Would he have assented to it? I don’t know but I have a feeling at the back of my mind that the President was not made aware of that petition because in whose interest would he be signing the SI? For the benefit of the 100 people at the expense of thousands who are affected by the SI? I am surprised here in Zambia zoona (truly) President wathu (ours), is he advised properly?”
He said a president who is compassionate and well advised by his ministers cannot to sign an SI that deprives people of a resource like the forest reserve.
“These are the kinds of things that make presidents fail because he cannot expect support, come 2021, from those people there. You are talking about 2,500 voters plus and those who signed the petition are only 2,000. What about the relatives? They will tell their families ‘don’t vote for this government’,” Harrington said.
And Harrington said seeking a tribunal in the matter is a non-starter owing to the costs involved and justice Mambilima’s alleged connection to the forest reserve saga.
“[The law] provides that anyone who is concerned can lodge a complaint to the Chief Justice to appoint a tribunal…I have two challenges: one is that I am supposed to apply to the Chief Justice. How do I apply to the Chief Justice when she is an interested party by way of having a plot there? How is she going to deal with it? Is she willing to step aside as Chief Justice and then the President may wish to appoint Deputy Chief Justice [to act in her place]? How will she apply it if it came from me, knowing very well that she is a beneficiary of that illegality in that forest? Mr Speaker too, knowingly or unknowingly, benefited from that illegality. Maybe he didn’t know the illegality; maybe even the Chief Justice [didn’t know]; let us be fair on them,” said Harrington.