Mines and Minerals Development Minister Richard Musukwa yesterday told Parliament that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is one of the directors of Afnet which owns Zambezi Resources, a company that is seeking to start mining operations in the Lower Zambezi National Park

Responding to a question by Mufulira Member of Parliament Evans Chibanda and Ikelenge Member of Parliament Elijah Muchima who wanted to know whether a leader of an opposition was involved in granting the license of mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park, Musukwa said Hichilema was of the directors, but struggled to explain how the opposition leader was involved in the awarding of the licence.

“Afnet owns Zambezi resources and Zambezi resources owns Mwembeshi Resources and is this how civilised political machinery work. They use proxies at different high platforms because they are sitting at a higher platform and they can do wrong things at that platform. Mr speaker, on the list of shareholders, in fact directors of Afnet. Hakainde Sammy Hichilema of box number 30885 Lusaka is a director of Afnet which owns Zambezi resources and consequently Mwembeshi,” Musukwa said.

And leader of opposition Jack Mwiimbu asked Musukwa to confirm whether the cited land in question was sold but Musukwa said government still owned the land.

“As far as the ministry is concerned, there is an application for this mining licenses in this area and I am confident that it has not been sold,” he responded.

And Nchanga Member of Parliament Chali Chilombo asked why government could not cancel the mining licenses but Musukwa said a procedure needed to be followed for the license to be invoked.

“Just as the ministry has the right to issue licenses, it has the right to cancel licenses. Following this matter you will note that there is a lot of public outcry over this matter and they are provisions to be followed. Mr Speaker, section 72 of the mines and minerals act of 2015, in fact, provides a procedure on which the minister can cancel the license. In this case, Mr speaker, because the license itself is not operational because they have to get approvals from the Minister responsible for tourism and wildlife, even before we come to the cancellation of the licenses from the Minister of Mines, I am very confident that by law, the Ministry of Tourism will ensure that it does the right thing,” Musukwa explained

“Mr Speaker, if a government arbitrary wakes up and cancels licenses we will be committing an offence against the law. Because if I cancelled the license today, the company called Mwembeshi Resources which has a valid license for 25 years will go to court. And as a government of laws we want to make sure that we follow the procedure.”

And rendering a ministerial statement earlier Musukwa said government could not completely prohibit mining activities in national parks.

“Mr Speaker let me now state the position of government on this matter. Let me begin by informing the house and the nation at large that the law allows the issuance of mining rights anywhere in the republic of Zambia including national parks, game parks forest and any other related places. However, mining activities whether exploration or mining can only takes place if the environmental management plan on the projects conforms with the practices and specifications established by the national standards for management of the environment. This is the more reason why before a mining license is granted. The granting authority ensures that an environmental and social impact assessment report approved by ZEMA is in place. Without this approval, the operations cannot start,” Musukwa said.

“Government cannot completely prohibit mining activities in national parks or game parks, but neither can we allow mining to destroy our national parks and game management areas, thereby jeopardising the potential of tourism. In as much as the High court ruling gave a go ahead to Mwembeshi Resources, Mwembeshi Resources can only proceed with the project upon fulfilment of the conditions of grant of the license as required by the mines and minerals act number 11 of 2015. As a holder of a valid large scale mining license, Mwembeshi Resources is obliged, according to section 52 of the mines and minerals development act to obtain written necessary consent from the relevant appropriate authorities including the Minister responsible for national parks and wildlife in accordance with section 16 of the Zambia wildlife act number 14 of 2015.”

And Musukwa said the authorisation granted to Mwembeshi Resources was invalid.

“Mwembeshi Resources was required to commence implementation of the project within three years from the date of approval, failure to commence a project in the required time frame rendered, the authorisation granted to Mwembeshi Resources is invalid. And Mwembeshi Resources is therefore required to re-submit to ZEMA the environmental and social impact assessment for consideration. The decision letter for Mwembeshi expired on fourth February 2017,” said Musukwa.