Democratic Party president Harry Kalaba has disclosed that when President Edgar Lungu was defence minister, he assured chiefs in the Lower Zambezi that mining would commerce in the area .
And Kalaba says there was no mention of UPND president Hakainde Hichilema on the awarding of a mining licence in the lower Zambezi.
Speaking during the Prime TV Oxygen of Democracy program, Monday, Kalaba who was minister of lands at that time, said he was waiting for a comment from President Lungu, as the matter was on record that the President assured chiefs on the commencement of mining in the Lower Zambezi.
“There are so many things that you (current government) overturned when I was foreign affairs minister what is difficult in overturning the Lower Zambezi issue. If you think Kalaba was off tangent, overturn it! But it will be difficult I can tell you because President Lungu, the current Head of State went in to the Lower Zambezi and assured the people in the Lower Zambezi that mining will go on. It is on record, it was on TV with the chiefs and he was assuring everyone that mining in the lower Zambezi will go on. Have you heard him comment on this issue? We are waiting for his comment,” Kalaba said.
“So if the President feels that this thing must go on, its an easy thing to just pick up a phone call and tell the Minister of Mines ‘have this licence canceled’. He was minister of defence he went there.They where meetings, Wilbur Simusa my predecessor was even conducting meetings in the lower Zambezi. I went in Lower Zambezi myself to see what was being discussed and I came and gave a report.”
He maintained that granting a mining licence in the Lower Zambezi at that time was the legal and right decision to take as consultations where done about the plan.
“For me as minister at that time looking at the reasons that were advanced to me, looking at the files I studied; I said ‘this was the right path to take’. There was nothing sinister about that. Even the Environmental Act of 2012 gives the Minister of Environment the authority to either accept ZEMA (Zambia Environmental and Management Agency) recommendation or refuse their recommendation. So, Legally it is correct, there is nothing sinister about it. There are times that ZEMA has been over ruled, Harry Kalaba is not the first one to have over ruled ZEMA,” he added.
“Even at that time when government was making that position there were others who did not agree that mining should go on in Lower Zambezi. But as I told you there is always an advantage point when you are in cabinet; because there is information that you receive that others may not receive. When I was Minister I was privileged to look at both files and I was able to see the arguments on both fronts. And guided by Cabinet, we took the position that we took.”
He said the awarding of the licence involved many ministries, and that it was wrong to single out Kalaba.
“Remember before arriving at that decision there were meetings that were held with the locals; and that is why I would love our colleagues especially the environmentalists all around the world, to blend what they are saying with people who are living in the lower Zambezi. Otherwise you will pick out Harry Kalaba as having been the one who authorised the Mining. I didn’t authorise the mining because the prospective mining was issued way before Kalaba was there. I am not the one who signed the mining licence. The mining licence was signed by another minister. That issue involved so many ministries not just one Ministry. So they want to drag Kalaba in the dirt,”he complained.
And Kalaba said Hichilema’s name never appeared in any documents in the awarding of a mining licence in the Lower Zambezi.
“It is difficult for me to speak about my elder brother Mr Hakainde Hichilema and his role on the Lower Zambezi. I think it will be a very unfair question. But what I can confirm to you is that even when I was minister his name never appeared in any of those documents I was reading. I never saw his name. Truth be told I never saw his name anywhere,” Kalaba said.
Meanwhile Kalaba said President Lungu ordered Luapula police commissioner to cancel the DP vision launch in Samfya.
“The instructions where coming straight from the President. He told them ‘Kalaba will not go ahead!’ He (President Lungu) told [Elias] Chushi, the Police Commissioner for Luapula that ‘if Kalaba goes ahead then you are also going out…if that rally succeeds’. They fired tear gas because President Lungu told them to do that. He called Chushi directly and told him to cancel it. Nobody can cancel a permit five hours before a rally starts. I have been in government I am not talking on ignorance because the provisions of the Public Order Act says five days before then the police can advise. Once five days lapses you can’t,” Kalaba said.
“The President Himself because he has become insecure called and said this rally will not take off. President Lungu headed by his good friend Chief Milenge thought that Luapula is there strong hold, unfortunately for them they are leaving in a plutonic world.”