Acting Commissioner of Lands George Sindila has confirmed that Lands Minister Jean Kapata has a plot in Forest 27 but says there is nothing wrong with that because she followed all procedure.

And director of forestry at the Forestry Department Ignatius Makumba says there was no need to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment when de-gazzetting part of Forest 27 because it was meant for residential purposes, not a huge project.

Responding to questions from journalists on why plots in Forest 27 were not advertised at a media briefing, Wednesday, Sindila said there was no law which obliged the commission to advertise plots.

“One of the issues floating around in the public domain that that the allocation of plots at State Lodge were not advertised. Let me make it very clear that the Commissioner of Lands does not advertise for plots for simple reasons that we receive so many applications on a daily basis. Even as we speak right now, we have thousands of applications sitting with us. In the case that we have 50 plots, surely is it advisable for us to advertise 50 plots when we have already thousands of applications sitting in our offices? I would like to believe the answer is no. At the same time, we have a lot cases coming from the courts of law where litigants take each other to court and the court orders the Commissioner of Lands to provide alternative parcels of land as way of resolving some of these court matters so in terms of advertising there’s no provision for that in the law,” Sindila said.

He said Kapata used the correct procedure in acquiring a plot in the area.

“One thing that should be made clear is that ministers are Zambians, they also have accommodation needs. It maybe ministers or it may be MPs, ordinary citizens, youths, everybody is at liberty to apply in terms of the land we are talking about. If you were to come to our offices, you will discover that not everyone is a minister who was given land in that area. The land was given to people from all works of life. All the procedures were followed. There is no special express arrangement for ministers to access land there. Several things that we look at, for example, you can apply for land when you don’t even have the capacity to develop it. Why should we even waste time when you we know on the lease agreement we are going to give you 18 months in which to develop it? So we look at several issues when making these decisions,” said Sindila.

And Makumba said there was no need to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment before de-gazzetting part of the land for residential use.

“I think [the] statutory instrument, if I recall, which guides the environmental assessment and if I recall very well, when it comes to such side of development where land is alienated for the purposes for residential developments, it does not require an environmental impact assessment. An environmental assessment is only required when there are large projects. For example, housing projects but for those plots which are in Forest Number 27 or which are in the area which was previously Forest 27 because it must be made clear that those plots are now sitting in an area which is no longer a forest reserve and for purposes for development for residential units it does not require an environmental impact assessment,” said Makumba.