PF media director Sunday Chanda says it is wrong to insinuate that politicians from the opposition and ruling parties cannot own land in the de-gazetted Forest 27, saying previous presidents have equally de-gazetted forests before to accommodate growing demand for land.

And Chanda says the PF should be credited for putting up mechanisms, such as the creation of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), that have led to an improved corruption fight.

Speaking on Radio Phoenix’s Let the People Talk programme, Tuesday, Chanda said the allocation of plots in the de-gazetted forest to some members of the opposition, ruling party and ordinary Zambians shows that the process complied with the law on land acquisition.

He said any Zambian could own land in the de-gazetted Forest 27.

“Now when one talks about issues to do with Forest 27 and…yesterday (Monday), I was listening to my elder brother [Chishimba Kambwili] from the Copperbelt talking about Forest 42 and a number of these issues, what is clear is that in the history of this country, these are not the first forests to be de-gazetted. Every president who has been has de-gazzeted a forest before because the demand for land has increased as the population grows. We have seen one reason we are working on the roads is that the traffic, the population is on the increase but now people would question motive, people would question the process, people would question whether or not the people who benefited are qualified to benefit and whether this was done holistically or whether just a part of this forest was hived off in order to meet particular means. This has happened before,” Chanda said.

“Going by the Commissioner of Lands’ report, the allocation of land was done within the provisions of the law on land acquisition in this country. Further, it would be a concern if one said the recipients of that land were not eligible according to the country’s land law. It was wrong to insinuate that politicians from either side of the divide cannot own land. I refuse to believe that the leader of opposition in Parliament, Honourable Jack Mwiimbu, is corrupt just because he is one of the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries extended to non-political and non-influential citizens who, too, cannot be said to be corrupt.”

He said it was wrong for people to allege corruption in the allocation of land in the de-gazetted Forest 27 when some of them had failed to account to the people they serve.

“Now some of the people that would scream and would want to make news on this particular issue cannot tell me or you,why a town like Luanshya has no golf club; they won’t tell you. They won’t tell you why the former golf club in Luanshya, all of sudden, had mansions mushrooming on it, they won’t tell you. Like the easterners would say, chiwamila galu kuluma mbuzi but not mbuzi ku luma galu (it is better for a dog to bite a goat than a goat to bite a dog); it becomes a problem.,” Chanda said.

“Even a place like Forest 27, some of the people who benefited were ordinary citizens who are not politicians. These are people who probably had land issues; they went to court and one way for Ministry of Lands to compensate them…they were allocated part of that land. So these are not PEPs, you know politically exposed persons (PEPs) who followed the due process of law…they are Zambians and they are entitled to land.” 

And Chanda said the PF deserves credit for enhancing the fight against corruption, leading to the unearthing of some corrupt practices.

“One thing I think we have lost in this whole conversation is that certain mechanisms, certain interventions by this government, by this President…made it very, very possible for these [corruption] revelations to come out. It is not like some of these things were not happening in the past, they were happening. What happened is that there were no legal frameworks, no mechanisms to bring out these issues to the fore. I will give a very clear example; there are people who would want to praise and clap for the Financial Intelligence Center for instance, but what they forget is that the Financial Intelligence Center is a creation of the PF government. Before the Financial Intelligence Centre, we didn’t know of certain things that were happening,” claimed Chanda.

“Now the creation of the Financial Intelligence Centre confirms this government’s commitment, PF’s commitment to fighting corruption and financial crimes. We have seen the financial Act under the Ministry of Finance and the Auditor General being given more powers under this government. All these things are playing a very important role in ensuring that acts of corruption, alleged acts of misconduct, suspicious transactions and suspicious actions and decisions are brought to the fore. We must be able to give credit where it is due. In the absence of these interventions that this government has put in place, a number of these things would not have come to the fore.”