TOURISM minister Rodney Sikumba says the government has commenced the process of relocating those who have settled around the Kafue National park.

Responding to a question from Nalikwanda UPND member of parliament Koonwa Simunji, who wanted to find out whether government had degazetted part of Kafue National Park, Tuesday, Sikumba said government had not degazetted the park in question.

He said the settlements seen between Nalusanga checkpoint and Kafue Hook Bridge were illegal.

“Government has not in uncertain terms de-gazetted any part of the Kafue National Park. Madam Speaker, the settlement which is seen to be increasing between Nalusanga check point and Kafue Hook Bridge are not in the Kafue National Park just to be clear. It is within the Mumbwa game management area. These settlements are illegal and the government has commenced a process to relocate the illegal settlers from the area. This action has resulted in a court proceeding that has since not been exhausted,” he said.

He said an assessment of the area had revealed that there were over 300 families who had illegally settled there.

“The matter of illegal settlers in and around our national parks has increased over the years. This matter started as early as 2017. Now over the period, Madam Speaker, my ministry obviously in collaboration with the central province administration has conducted an audit to ascertain the number of illegal settlers who are sitting around the particular game management area. Madam Speaker, we are sitting with in excess of around 300 families obviously who were coming out of Southern province and we have indeed put a stop to any additional encroachment within those particular areas,” he said.

“Madam Speaker, to further give assurance to the House, we have since met with the chiefs in that area, community resource board around that area to enlighten them and also advise them that they should no longer encroach the game management area which saves as a buffer for the ecosystem around the Kafue national Park. You will in due course hear from my ministry on the floor on the big announcement on how we are going to manage the Kafue National Park.”

Sikumba said the illegal settlers would only be relocated at the right time.

“There is a lot of background work that my ministry and other collaborating ministries to ensure that that stay that was placed in 2017 is lifted so that it allows us to legally evict our people. I must make mention, Madam Speaker, that those illegal settlers are our people and so it will be very difficult to relocate anyone during the rain season at the moment. So we are looking at ways and means on how to relocate them to a different place,” said Sikumba.