We have followed very closely the arguments being put forward by those who are opposing the move to allow a mining company to establish an open pit mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park. As a matter of fact, this development has cost Zambia the opportunity to have the tourist destination declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, a feat which Mana Pools National Park in neighbouring Zimbabwe, across the river has since accomplished.
This matter is such a thorny topic and becomes the first and only ‘political’ issue to have gotten the founding President out of his resting zone to speak publicly against a government decision. Dr Kenneth Kaunda spoke so strongly that people, including those who work in his office, thought his statement was fake news. They said the statement did not carry his tone and usual language (probably because there was no “love your naighbour as much as you love yourself”). But they were wrong, Dr Kaunda did speak and he fired straight to the media. “Friends of the environment all over the world, the Lower Zambezi is a story of resilience. I am concerned about the people and their natural resources in and around the Lower Zambezi National Park. The proposed mining operation in the middle of the National park poses the biggest threat in history to the wildlife and pristine wilderness that has survived so many centuries of challenges and supported generations of Zambians,” said Dr Kaunda.
We have also followed closely the explanations being given by those who support the mining operation in the Lower Zambezi and their justification. We are afraid to report that to us, they are not making a lot of sense. Former lands minister Harry Kalaba who apparently went against the Environmental Impact Assessment Report from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) for this operation to go ahead, has been at pains to explain himself. “One thing that must be known is that the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) is an advisory agency to government. The advice that ZEMA gives can be taken and not taken. ZEMA advised that Sun Hotel should not go ahead with the project that they have built Zambezi Royal Livingstone.
But government, under (Levy) Mwanawasa, they went ahead and did Sun Hotel industry, isn’t it bringing tourism to us now? Government looks at things at a holistic perspective. For me as minister at that time looking at the reasons that were advanced to me, looking at the files I studied; I said ‘this was the right path to take’. There was nothing sinister about that,” said Honourable Kalaba. This is a shallow excuse in our opinion because it explains nothing. The former minister is almost suggesting that the so-called reasons that were advanced to him are a state secret that cannot be revealed. What can be secret about the basis for allowing mining in a national park? Clearly the man is hiding behind Cabinet; he is hiding behind “collective responsibility”. Collective responsibility is not a green light to doing wrong things. The fact that he is the one who took the cab memo to Cabinet means he has some answering to do. Did he consult the Minister of Tourism at the time? What did Sylvia Masebo say about this? Was her opinion any different from the opinion of the current Tourism Minister who is seeking to reverse this? So how was this allowed then? Who did Harry Kalaba work with?
We are asking these questions because it borders on abuse of office not only by the Minister but by the Head of State as well. We are told that a Cabinet quorum can be formed by one minister and a sitting President, and this is a fertile weakness in the law for abuse of authority. The wildlife issue in Zambia is not small, it is so big and State House has always been at the centre of it. Right now, we have a developing story where the entire Chimtengo Forest in Sinda District of Eastern Province has been taken and fenced off by the President’s family. Those operating on the land say it belongs to Tasila Lungu. We are told that she is opening a game ranch in the said forest which has lost all the trees. What was the criteria for giving this land to the President’s daughter? Anyway, that is a story for another day. Today we are discussing Mr Kalaba who is almost out of breath explaining his role in government’s decision to allow mining in the Lower Zambezi. Sir, there are certain things that cannot be defended. This is one of them. It is no wonder you are a lone voice. But we have an idea of what is going on here. The DP leader is having a tough time exculpating himself because the man he conducted the operation with is no more.
Ignoring an Environmental Impact Assessment Report from (ZEMA) on an issue of this magnitude is not something a minister can simply wake up and do. Such a minister would have to be very foolish and careless, and we do not believe that is the definition of Harry Kalaba. Our well educated guess is that he was highly likely acting on presidential instructions. What should the former minister do in this case? In our view, the easiest route is to admit a wrong. It will not kill Honourable Kalaba to simply stand up and say, ‘yes, I ignored the ZEMA recommendation and with hindsight, I admit that it was a wrong thing to do, I ask the people of Zambia to forgive me’. He is very likely to gain a lot of respect from that position than hopping from one radio station to another, dragging innocent people like Levy Mwanawasa in the mud and pointing fingers in all directions. Mr Kalaba is not a saint. He did many things wrong while he was in government.
Yes, he resigned on claims that there was too much corruption in the PF government, but that does not leave him blameless. For those wrong decisions he made as a Cabinet minister, he is supposed to account; and from our point of view, the easiest way to account is to apologise when you are guilty. Don’t be shy president Kalaba. Face the people and tell them that you are looking for boom to wash that part of the brain that made you make bad decisions while in government. Chapwa! If you think Kalaba, talaba, you are mistaken. It’s the people who never forget, and if you don’t own up on this, you will be surprised what effects this single issue may carry at the next elections.
An adviser is not a witch!