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Fight against illegal land allocation long overdue

POLITICAL cadres have been allocating land illegally since the days of the United National Independence Party (UNIP).
When UNIP, the party that brought independence, lost power to the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in 1991, the trend continued.
And now, it is reportedly being perpetuated by some Patriotic Front cadres.
Apart from cadres identifying idle land, which they sell under the guise of fundraising for the party or as youth empowerment, unlawful allocation of land has taken more vicious traits which have led to encroachment on privately-owned land such as the Kalulushi incident in which former parliamentarian Barnabas Chella lost his life.
Sometimes they even encroach on State land.
The desire to acquire and sell land is one of the reasons why some cadres will always defect from the losing political party to the one which sweeps into office for the sake of perpetuating the illegality from which they have made huge fortunes.
Some cadres, current or former, who have benefitted from the mischief, are now real estate giants.
However, this impunity is coming to an end steadily.
President Edgar Lungu is determined to break up this cycle of illegal allocation of land.
Last week, the Head of State delegated Vice-President Inonge Wina to conduct an on-the-spot check on illegal allocation of land in Ndola, where the local authority seems to have lost the plot.
Mrs Wina’s mission laid bare the illegal allocation of land that has been going on along the banks of the Kafubu River and around the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
Prior to the veep’s departure to the Copperbelt, there were reports of the stand-off between the PF and Copperbelt provincial minister, Bowman Lusambo.
Initially, a statement by some PF officials in the province suggested that Mr Lusambo was creating parallel structures in the region.
It is not clear whether Mr Lusambo is sidelining PF officials he suspects are involved in illegal allocation of land.
However, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation footage of Mrs Wina’s departure to Lusaka at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe airport suggests there could be more than what meets the eye.
Most people could not believe that PF cadres could be fighting when the holder of the second highest office in the land was being seen off.
The fight was between Mr Lusambo’s ‘die-hard’ supporters and those against him. The former ran for their dear lives.
The incident at the airport probably exposes the resistance Mr Lusambo is facing from the PF on the Copperbelt.
Firstly, he is still perceived as a ‘Die Hard’ MMD member who is out to eat into their comfort zone.
But whatever his critics say or perceive him to be, Mr Lusambo is minister of the Copperbelt Province until President Lungu says otherwise.
Mr Lusambo has sweeping powers to cleanse the province of corruption, and those who think he is over-stepping his boundaries should complain to relevant authorities.
Fighting the minister or his supporters in public is not the best way to resolve the misunderstanding – perceived or real.
The Vice-President’s visit to Ndola, where she asked Ndola City Council where the local authority officials were when people were constructing along the banks of the Kafubu River and at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium, should give Mr Lusambo the armour to discharge his duties dilligently.
Time for illegal allocation of land is surely coming to an end.
And it should start with Ndola city fathers to do what is expected of them.
How they do deal with squatters at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium or indeed developers along the Kafubu River is what the nation waits to see.
Other local authorities are waiting to see how Ndola acts so that they emulate them.
Legalising illegality is certainly out.
Legalising illegality is the reason why most cities have lots of unplanned settlements which are an eyesore.
Mr Lusambo’s fight against corruption requires the support of all well-meaning PF cadres and citizens.
This is a war which must be won for the sake of restoring sanity, not just in politics but in city planning.
As long as the fight against illegal allocation of land is not won, shifting the capital city from Lusaka, even to Mars, may not make sense.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.