Leslie Mbula says he is wondering why government has announced a compulsory take-over of Horizon School within five years, when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that it would operate for 90 years.
And Lands Minister Jean Kapata confirmed, Monday, that the land on which Horizon School was sitting had been compulsorily acquired, insisting that it was in public interest.
“Government has been made aware of reports circulating in certain sections of the media, alleging that his Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia has compulsorily acquired and sold the land on which Horizon School is sitting to a Chinese investor. Government is restrained from responding to these reports in detail because on 20th November, 2019, the owners of Horizon School commenced legal action against the State over this matter. Government wishes to confirm that the land on which Horizon School sits has been compulsorily acquired by the State in accordance with the Lands Acquisition Act,” Kapata stated.
“The purpose for the compulsory acquisition is for public interest, the Act empowers the President to compulsorily acquire any land whenever he is of the opinion that it is desirable or expedient to do so in the interest of the Republic. Further, Government Gazette Notice No. 6814 of 15th November, 2019, does not state anywhere that the President has personal interest in the land. The Lands Acquisition Act ordinarily provides for compensation either in monetary terms or alternative land. However, we are constrained from giving any further details as the matter is in court. Government has no intention to disrupt the operations and curriculum of the school after the process of compulsory acquisition.”
But in an interview, Mbula, who is Horizon School board chairperson, said the school had never abrogated any conditions given by government.
“We have just been told that the school is being compulsorily acquired. Now, we don’t know the reason; we don’t know anything at all because no reason has been given so we are just wondering why this is so. We are in the dark, but we are very sad because we think that, at last, Zambia has a school of excellence. We received the Gazette Notice, which came out on the 20th of September, 2019, and they said we are going to close this thing on the 20th of November and then another notice came that they are going to take-over on 30th December, 2019. We have not been told what the land has been acquired for. We have gone to our lawyers and they have written to the government; we are saying there is nothing bigger in terms of public goods than a school or education, the school is investing in human resource. And over the 90 years that is the agreement we can have hundreds of thousands of pupils going through that school,” Mbula said.
“Before we were allocated that land, we exhaustively consulted and because of that, we are confident. We have a Memorandum of Understanding, which said we are going to be there for 30 years and then later on, we signed the contract with government, not with one Ministry, but with our Justice Ministry to say we will be there for 90 years because of the value of education. The contract we signed with government was given conditions and we have actually fulfilled those conditions; we have never abrogated any of the conditions that we were given!”
Mbula, who is also a former Secretary to the Cabinet, said the school provided the best education in Zambia and that it provided scholarships for pupils that came from poor backgrounds.
“This school is providing the best education in Zambia. It was established after exhaustive consultations with government, not only one Ministry, but all the ministries, including the Attorney General. Being the former Secretary to the Cabinet, I had to make sure that everything was above board and we established this school because we felt that we need a school of high quality like Horizon. This school is so much of high quality that, currently, the pupils from that school are topping the list! We have 100 per cent pass rate at grade seven; grade nine and grade 12; we have only had five graduations at grade 12,” narrated Mbula.
“What you need to understand is that the school is not for the rich; it is also for the poor. We bring poor children from poor backgrounds provided they have richness in their head; we give them scholarships. Currently, we have 550 pupils of those 250 are on scholarship ranging between 10 per cent and 100 per cent because we think that we should not leave anybody behind when it comes to education. This school has been operating for that short time and within that short time, this school has excelled academically and in sports. This year, alone, we have won all the trophies: football trophies, basketball, chess and we have been organizing Olympiads.”