Columnists

Culprits of illegal land activities must face law

CHAMBO

Analysis: CHAMBO NG’UNI
LIKE in other districts, Kabwe is experiencing a boom in construction of houses and businesses.

These developments are positive as people are being empowered to own houses due to investments in different areas.
However, not all residential, industrial and commercial structures springing up in Kabwe on land administered by Kabwe Municipal Council (KMC), Zambia Railways Limited, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mine – Investment Holdings or where land is idle are being done in accordance with the provision of the law.
Cases of illegal land activities in Kabwe are common.
Cemeteries have also not been spared. Graves are being desecrated and human remains are exhumed and burnt by developers of houses.
Worse still, some perpetrators of land illegalities are former and current serving councillors and council officers, members of some former residential development committees (RDCs) and political cadres.
Only recently a scam in which unscrupulous council officials, former councillors and members of RDCs in Kabwe were illegally selling land was unearthed.
In this well-crafted scam, the culprits have gone to an extent of tampering with minutes of full council meetings to launder illegal land deals.
At the centre of this scam is a minute book of 2010 in which plots were allegedly sold and huge sums of money pocketed.
Genuine pages of official minute books were removed and replaced with falsified ones.
This prompted the KMC to institute internal investigations to bring the culprits to book.
The KMC is, however, yet to make its findings public.
The most puzzling fact is that those implicated in illegal land activities are never brought to book or made to account for their criminal activities.
And in cases where people illegally acquire land and illegally build houses or establish businesses, such structures end up being legalised.
Some culprits take advantage of the fact that no punitive measures would be taken after their uncalled-for acts.
On June 8, 2017, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata suspended KMC and Ndola City Council from serving as land administration agents due to failure by the two councils to adhere to guidelines and procedures in the management of the natural resource.
Ms Kapata challenged the two councils to restore sanity in land administration, adding that her ministry would not sit idly and watch councils continue to disregard guidelines in the administration of land.
She said that the high prevalence of illegality and lawlessness pertaining to land allocation and acquisition in Zambia has the potential to frustrate the pace at which the country is attaining socio-economic development.
Although the suspension of the two land agencies is a sad development, it serves as warning for local authorities to put their houses in order.
Without the people involved in illegal land activities being brought to book, even if the Ministry of Lands lifts the suspension, Kabwe will remain a fertile ground and a money spinner for illegal land dealers.
It may not be long before the Ministry of Lands stamps its authority to suspend the land administration agency from KMC if the looting of land continues.
KMC needs to act decisively, and do things by the book as the law states.
The local authority also needs to join forces with the Zambia Police Service and the Anti-Corruption Commission to round up people involved in illegal land activities.
Once and for all, the due process of the law, not the interest of individuals, must prevail.
Only local authorities and Ministry of Lands have the legal mandate to administer land.
No one is above the law. Therefore, the rule of law must prevail at all times in administration and planning of land in Kabwe.
Land is an important asset which should not be squandered. When it comes to development, land should be planned for in a holistic and integrated manner.
KMC needs to restore sanity in land administration and stamp its authority in bringing to an end all criminal land activities.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail senior reporter.

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