THE Chitimukulu of the Bemba speaking people of Northern Province and several other traditional leaders who are shareholders in the Luapula Hydropower Corporation Limited (LHCL) are facing arrest for not surrendering two water rights.
Directors of Luapula Hydropower are also facing arrest for not surrendering the water rights despite them appealing the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA)’s order that their 25-year water permits over the Kabwelume and Kundabwika waterfalls for a power project be surrendered because they had been cancelled.
Luapula Hydropower raised funding for the whole project through Berkeley Energy, which is funded by Africa Development Bank and the Commonwealth Development Corporation, but WARMA is seeking prosecution of the directors and shareholders for refusing to surrender the water rights under contention.
The Paramount Chief is a shareholder on behalf of the Bemba Royal Establishment (BRE), together with Chief Mukupa Katandula, Chief Kapena (Nchelenge), Chief Mumpolokoso, Chief Mushota (Kawambwa) and the Mwata Kazembe of Luapula Province.
The directors and shareholders of LHCL have since been issued with summonses and are expected to appear in the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court today (Monday).
In a letter dated August 6, 2020, WARMA board chairperson Dr Wilson Mwenya stated that the authority, in its meeting held on the same date, had established that the two water permits number 10731 and 10732 issued to the company were in contravention of the provisions of the WARMA Act No. 21 of 2011.
He explained in his letter that the two permits issued to Luapula Hydropower were not granted by the WARMA Board of Directors, which was the only entity mandated by the Act to grant water permits.
“The Board of Directors was not in place at the time of the grant. Therefore, in terms of Section 86 (1)(c) of the Act, this serves as a notice for you to forthwith surrender the water permits 10731 and 10732 to WARMA. You are further requested to have the said permits surrendered to the Authority no later than seven days from receipt of this matter. Further, kindly note that in terms of section 86 (2) of the Act, a permit holder who fails to comply with the notice under section 86 (1) commit an offence and is liable, upon conviction, to the general penalty provided under section 172. We trust that you shall duly comply so as to avoid any inconvenience,” stated Dr Mwenya.
However, Luapula Hydropower stated in response to WARMA’s letter that the reasons for cancellation of the rights were flawed and said the decision was illegal as there was a consent judgment entered into between itself and WARMA on the same water rights.
Luapula Hydropower further appealed to the Minister on September 2, 2020, seeking nullification of the cancellation of the water rights.
The company stated that WARMA’s decision was unfair “as well as clothed in unquestionable malice, illegality and unreasonableness”.