LANDS and Natural Resources Minister Elijah Muchima has appealed to those who have resources to fund a technical assessment on Forest 27 to come forward and help government.
In an interview, Muchima said government was not being slow but was being careful on handling the matter.
“We have requested cooperating partners to help us with this assignment because it is too costly. If those who are pushing have got money, they have got the resources to help us come up with that report quickly, they are most welcome they can come and we shall discuss and we can see how we can achieve that. Call it the technical assessment and not a mere audit. The bottom line is that we need to be objective, we don’t want to be as careless as our colleagues. They could have been doing that thing to promote their own interest but us, we need to be objective. We are not being slow but we are being careful,” Muchima said.
“I have put it across to you people that it is not a simple matter that you can just go in and break. We need to be objective as a ministry, you need to look at the wrongs and right and how to preserve the public’s interest. That doesn’t take the pushing from those individuals who are saying ‘no the government is delaying’, the government is bureaucracy but the deliberate bureaucracy that protects a lot of interests.”
He said the history of the forest needed to be considered.
“We need to do a geo-physics and that is a strategic environment impact assessment report, that is what will direct us and that is quite a cost. We have been trying to source funding for that activity. These are experts who will tell us how the areas have been impacted. Forest 27 is not just a small stretch, it has a history. When you look at that history, you need to understand certain areas so that report will give us a backing whether it will be in public interest or not. Even if the matter went to court, it will justify the public’s interest,” he said.
Meanwhile, Muchima, who is also Ikeleng’i UPND member of parliament, said he was not a tribalist.
“I am being queried that I am talking about Southern Province. When did I become a Tonga? When you are a minister, are you a minister of a tribe? When I am in Southern Province, I have to look at what is bad and good for Southern, I cannot stand here and start talking about Ikeleng’i or Mwinulunga, no. I am a minister for every Zambian. We have serious floods in Southern Province, should we ignore it because we don’t come from there? That is where Zambians are getting it wrongly. I cannot just be talking about Ikeleng’i but let me go to other places where people cannot defend themselves, I can go to Luapula, I am going everywhere. I want all those that are referring to me as a tribal Lunda to shut up! They are tribalists themselves, let us concentrate on building Zambia,” said Muchima.