Those of you who have been named [as property owners] in Forest Reserve 27, when the time comes, we are going to do “land expropriation without compensation,” Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo has warned.

And Lands Minister Jean Kapata says her Ministry has no control over locals who acquire timber concession licenses and later decide to sell them to foreigners, but warned that if dared to cancel all such licenses, she has the power to do it.

Debating on the 2020 Ministry of Lands budget in Parliament, Nkombo warned that all those who owned plots in the controversial Forest Reserve 27 that a UPND government would repossess without compensation.

“Those of you who have been named in Forest 27, do the right thing because we are going to do land expropriation without compensation! We will take away your properties! When the time comes, we are going to do land expropriation without compensating you for the cement, [and] for the blocks and everything that you are putting in that forest, we are going to take it away. It’s called compulsory acquisition. Mark my words, we are coming for you,” Nkombo warned.

And Nkombo asked Kapata to close the subject about mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park, adding that tourism was more sustainable than mining.

“My advice to you, Honourable Jean Kapata is that, if you have what it takes, just close that subject about mining in Lower Zambezi because tourism is much more sustainable than mining. And now, coming to the Forest Act, I think the Forest Act is your enemy, Honourable Minister. The Forest Act No. 4 of 2015 does not do you a favour because it still has this colonial hegemony connotation and flavour. Isn’t it a wonder why Zambians, your own Zambian people, are excluded from the activities of forestry? Don’t you sit in your office and think what is it? It is the dictation of the Act that has excluded indigenous people from getting the benefits of the natural resource that God gave us? And this is why I opened by saying that ‘in the midst of plenty, a fool starves!’ God did it deliberately, he wasn’t a fool to put Mukula tree where it is. It is to benefit those people and not the Chinese,” he said.

He also encouraged Kapata to take back to Parliament the Forest Act of 2015 and overhaul it so that it accommodated ordinary Zambians.

“Try and find a way to re-do the Act. Bring it here, we change it so that it can be more accommodating. The threshold of getting involved in terms of monetary terms ‘licensing’ Honourable Minister is too expensive for an ordinary person to manage and conduct that activity in the forest, and you know that. The same goes for tourism. Why is it that game ranching and this trophy business is centered around just the rich? Is that your doctrine? You can break that paradox,” Nkombo said.

But speaking when she winded up debate on all matters raised, Kapata said she had no control over those who acquired timber licenses and later decide to sell them to foreigners.

“The Forest Act of 2015 is a very progressive piece of legislation. The Act only allows Zambians to actually harvest timber. The Act has also provided for participation by communities and benefit in harvesting timber. However, the Ministry has no control over any citizen that gets a timber concession license and who decides to sell to a foreign national. It’s happening. Colleagues, let’s not point fingers at others. We have tried to empower Zambians with concession licenses, alas! They are giving them to the foreigners. So, you want me, as a Minister, to stand and cancel all the concession licenses? If that’s what you want, I think I have the power to do that and I can do it. So, we are not restricting any Zambian to invest in forestry,” Kapata said.

She also said there was need to increase the timber concession licenses so people could stay away from forests.

“Also, Zambians must know that, involvement in forest activities requires huge investment [such] as access to financing, which is not easy for our local people; machines that they use in the forest is not easy for them to have. Therefore, these are some of the reasons why our people sell their concession licenses to foreigners. Mr chairman, concession licenses are in three categories: we have the small-scale, which goes at K1,000 for two years; we have the medium-cost, which goes at K5,000 for three years, and we also have the large-scale, which goes for K10,000 for five years. But I think that these figures are very minimal. We need, maybe, to increase so that people can stay away from our forests,” Kapata said.

She added that every Zambian remained free to apply for timber export licenses as long as they met the Ministry of Lands’ requirements.

“And in regard to export, every Zambian is free to apply for a permit, and they will be allowed to export timber as long as they meet the requirements, which the Ministry has put,” Kapata said.

And on the controversial Lower Zambezi mining saga, Kapata said her Mines counterpart, Richard Musukwa, will issue a ministerial statement, Thursday.