LOCAL Government and Housing Minister Dr Charles Banda has suspended the Lusaka and Kitwe City Councils for three months with immediate effect to pave way for investigations into illegalities around the allocation of land in the respective municipalities.

And Lands and Natural Resources Minister Jean Kapata has revoked the powers given to the two municipalities which enabled them to sell land, until further notice.

The suspension of Council means that the Mayor, his deputy and all the councillors in the two municipalities have been suspended for the stated period in which an administrator will then be appointed by Dr Banda.

Speaking during a joint-press briefing, Monday, Dr Banda announced the development and warned other councils around the country to desist from illegal sale of land.

“I want to say, also, here that it’s not just the Lusaka City Council that we are going to talk about, we have also discovered that similar tendencies have occurred in so many municipalities, but principally Kitwe City Council, it seems they have gone overboard just like Lusaka City Council have done! And because of this, dear colleagues, I wish to announce now that I have suspended the Lusaka City Council for three months to give us a chance to correct the ills that are in that Council. May I also announce that I have with immediate effect suspended Kitwe City Council so that we are able to go in and correct the ills and I am hoping that in that three months, as we try to put things correctly, our friends are going to have an introspection and come back as better councillors and civic leaders in those very important institutions,” Dr Banda said.

“Apart from that, let me also send a warning to other councils that are in this habit of perpetually wanting to be on the wrong side of the law that we are not going to spare anybody! There is no sacred cow in this. We may come back soon if these activities persist to do the same, suspend them and correct the issues there and ensure that things are done in an orderly manner. These suspensions are with immediate effect for three months and within this week, I am going to appoint administrators: one for Lusaka and one for Kitwe. For clearing any doubts that people may have, I have invoked Section 56 of Local Act, which empowers the Minister of Local Government to suspend a council when there are problems.”

He said government would not tolerate illegality.

“I want to state here that the Ministry of Local Government, together with our colleagues at Lands, will closely monitor the developments to ensure that directives issued are closely followed and actioned upon. Therefore, I wish to reiterate that the PF government will not tolerate any illegality or disorderly allocation of land and that any officer or civic leader found wanting will be reprimanded and appropriate action taken accordingly,” he cautioned.

“Given the findings of the site visit and pursuant to the Urban and Regional Planning Act, the Lusaka City Council, the planning authority undertaking functions delegated to them has been instructed as follows: the temporal permit granted to install a trading container on Vubu Road reserve under Zesco pylons be revoked. Further, the erection of the container must be stopped with immediate effect as the area is clearly unsuitable for the intended development, which I am sure the Council has already worked on. Number two, the permission granted for the proposed extension of stand number 33/35/8632 Emmasdale onto the road reserve be revoked with immediate since the land in question is an active access road; the permission for the proposed extension of stand number LUS/17418A along Chinyunyu road be stopped and planning permission cancelled with immediate effect. Since the permission of the proposed extension of stand number LUS/17418A encroaches on the road reserve and is under Zesco pylons, the Lusaka City Council should ensure that the wall fence boundary is reasonably moved away from the road reserve and the Zesco pylons.”

Dr Banda revealed that after investigations, it was found that the land, which led to the dispute between Matero PF member of parliament Lloyd Kaziya and councillor in the area, Annie Chinyanta, was under a Zesco pylon and also an encroachment on a road reserve.

“Colleagues, I would like to inform you that, colleagues from the Ministry of Lands and I went to the site to establish whether the land in question was, indeed, a road reserve and, therefore, not suitable for any form of development. We undertook the tour of other sites in the same area that had been queried by the community; the following were the findings from the visit: a named individual was granted a temporal permission by Lusaka City Council on 11th June, 2020, to install a trading container on temporal basis for six months, from 11th June to 21st December, 2020, subject to renewal. The land on which temporal permission was granted is on a road reserve and directly under the 11KV Zesco pylon. This is the same area where Honourable Lloyd Kaziya, member of parliament for Matero constituency and Ms Chinyanta, ward councillor for Matero Ward 28, who is also chairperson for the planning and information systems of the Council, had an altercation over the land. The named individual had since started erecting the base for the container. Colleagues, this area is unsuitable for intended development as it would be an encroachment on a road reserve and imposes a hazard to the developer,” announced Dr Banda.

And Kapata urged councillors to desist from illegal land allocation for personal benefit.

“I want to take this opportunity to call upon all people in these towns, either in Kitwe, Lusaka or Copperbelt Province; we are going to set a table at our Ministry to receive complaints of similar nature so that we can deal with these issues once and for all. The councillor’s duty is not to allocate land, the councillors duty is to attend to people, but it seems like, now, the new trend is that people just want to engage in land allocation. And we have on many occasions mentioned that Lusaka Province, along the line of rail; we do not have land anymore. I had written a letter three years ago to Lusaka City Council to stop allocating land because there was no land in Lusaka, but they have continued to give out land! So, we are withdrawing our agency until after three months, we need to put their house in order,” said Kapata.

“The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources gave land agencies to local authorities and this was done through circular number 1 of 1985 and this circular has outlived its cause. This is why, as a Ministry, we are reviewing the circular so that we can bring it to the current time where we are. I also want to take this opportunity to caution all our provincial land officials in the provinces not to endorse illegality. Before they can endorse or start preparing for title, they must be able to verify that those pieces of land are available for allocation. So, having said that, I also want to add that, as Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, we are withdrawing our agency, the agreement that we had under circular number 1 of 1985 from Lusaka City Council and Kitwe City Council, for three months until further notice. We need to do an audit in those districts and towns and see to it that sanity is brought. We also want to do an audit to see to it that most of the illegality is corrected.”