LANDS Minister Elijah Muchima says government will issue a decree to halt all developments in Forest 27.
And Local Government Minister Gary Nkombo says the previous administration was advised against building in the said forest but they did not heed.
Speaking during a tour of Forest 27, Wednesday, Muchima said the commissioner of lands would take stock of what had been happening in the said forest.
“We have to issue a decree to halt all developments at the moment until we finish the whole exercise. At the moment we want the director or the commissioner of lands to take stock of what has been happening here until everything is concluded. That is our conclusion today on this exercise. If this land is meant to be a forest, we need an impact assessment. The damage has already been done but we have to stop further constructions wherever it is in the country, we have to preserve the land. And if people got it illegally, I am sorry, it will return to the government, it will return to the people of Zambia. Mind you, no land is given permanently, it is only leased to a person, the maximum is 99 years on renewal. But at the moment, let us establish what went on, we cannot continue with this impunity that existed with our colleagues,” said Muchima.
And Nkombo said the UPND government wanted to see how much they could salvage of the recharge system for the future generations.
“We are not here to victimize anyone, it should be known very clearly that we are following up a matter that is crucial to even the generations that are coming after us and begin trying to salvage this recharge area for the people downstream, Chalimabana River, Chongwe River. I think it should be made clear and known that we have got proof of impunity on the part of those who were there before us in the sense that they were clearly advised by the institutions that is charged with the responsibility of preserving this recharge area that ‘do not do it’. And we will avail to you the letter from ZEMA directing or informing those who were there before us that they must not develop this area. That is in black and white and it also spells out the ramifications, the consequence of the action of impunity for meeting selfish ends on the part of those that were there before us,” Nkombo said.
“So it should be made clear that we are not here for any retribution. The tail end of this story however will be dealt with by the relevant ministry because it has become astonishingly clear that this whole area was parceled out secretively. There was no advertisement whatsoever, and this matter came in the public domain, we advised our colleagues, we even went as far as saying, if this day were to come when we are the ones given the charge of the interests of the people who we represent, we are going to bring down all these developments. At this point, this is not our state of mind but we want to see how much we can salvage for the recharge system to continue for the generations that are coming after us.”
Nkombo further said government would engage stakeholders to make a decision on the forest.
“So we are going to ask for a report from the Ministry of Lands, commissioner of lands to say who has built what, who is on title, who has planning permission? And at that point we are going to get all the stakeholders to help us make a decision that is going to be fair for the people of Chongwe, for the people who may have innocently got these plots and to strike a balance on how we can move together as an entity,” said Nkombo.
Debating in parliament last year, Nkombo vowed that his party would demolish all the houses built in the Forest.
“All eminent people who have benefited from Forest number 27 to own up and give it back. Let me tell you now, everything that you are doing is an exercise in futility. On the first day of being sworn in, we are coming to demolish those houses down there, that is what is going to happen when we come into power in 2021, we are coming with bulldozers to drop all the houses that you are building down there,” Nkombo had told Parliament.
Meanwhile, Princess Choolwe Nkomeshya said people were affected by the projects, and added that the land should be de-gazetted.