The Action is in their Reaction; The Case of Chingola Vs Forest 27

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The Action is in their Reaction; The Case of Chingola Vs Forest 27
The Action is in their Reaction; The Case of Chingola Vs Forest 27

Africa-Press – Zambia. The poor people of Chingola who built their houses along the Kasompe airstrip witnessed a nightmare on Saturday, August 20th, when their homes were demolished by the Chingola Municipal Council. This has been the most cruel and gruesome act so far, to have happened under the rein of the new dawn government.

The man whom these same people woke up very early on August 12, 2021, to go and vote for as their member of parliament (MP), was out of the country on official government duty. The Chingola MP who is also minister of commerce, Mr. Chipoka Mulenga, upon hearing of this tragedy was quoted by several social media platforms; including the verified official United Party for National Development (UPND) Facebook page that he was “shocked” to have learned of this sad development. Hence, he cut short his trip to return home from Nigeria and sympathize with the affected residents. If this was not a statement of concern from the honorable minister, then I do not know what to make of such a pronouncement. Because anyone who is serious about the plight of our poor people should ask one question and one question only. Why was the minister in shock? The local authorities claim that in February 2022, they sent out a notice of enforcement to all developers in the area to suspend works within 28 days as stipulated by law. This goes without saying that any reasonable person can conclude from this scenario that surely, some sort of notice must have been issued as well to the 345 residents of the same area beforehand for them to evacuate.

Therefore, is the honorable minister so detached from his constituency that he was not aware of this notice which was served to the affected residents before the demolish? Or is it the case of having selective amnesia, like most politicians do; that after elected they forget about those who put them in those positions of power in the first place. It is very sad to see people in authority issue convenient statements in an attempt to console the vulnerable. The kind of statements that look sympathetic on face value, but when taken into serious consideration; they are just empty statements and insincere. Few days later after the saga of the so-called illegal settlers, the MP for the area claimed that he had secured another piece of land for the affected victims because the head of state told him not to rest until this matter was resolved. So, why didn’t the honorable minister and his boss (The Head of State), initially take a proactive approach to this problem? Was it necessary to wait for the council to move in, demolish these 300 plus houses and then government steps in to help? Will government build houses for those families on the purported new land allocated to them? Perhaps, this is a mere reaction from the minister and his government because they fear of what could be worse, as the affected victims already expressed their anger by burning down the mayor’s house in Chingola. Regardless of what the answers are to all these questions, the truth still remains that, this is nothing but the first blunder of the UPND alliance government, which could potentially haunt them not just for now. But for the foreseeable near future as well.

Lest we forget that, the UPND in the opposition made so much noise on the floor of the house with regards to forest 27. They told us, that the settlements in that area were all illegal because the patriotic front (PF) government of ECL had illegally degazetted the said forest 27 and allocated plots to his friends and “corrupt” PF officials. In fact, the now honorable minister for local government Mr. Gary Nkombo is on record of making a commitment to the Zambian people while citing Kenya as an example. Mr. Nkombo said that, should UPND win the 2021 elections and form government- the first thing they will do is to bring a bulldozer and demolish all structures in forest 27- this was the Minister’s speech in parliament on Wednesday, December 04th, 2019. Unfortunately, we have only seen the bulldozer going to Kasompe area in Chingola, which is roughly 415 kilometers away from Forest 27 in Lusaka. And when anyone dares to remind the government on their public promises over Forest 27, all of a sudden it becomes a philosophical debate, and the issue of compensation crops up. On August 22, 2022, some minister said he was not quite about forest 27, but that they have engaged WWF to assess the damage. In Chingola, no one engaged anyone in any sort of discussions or questioned the morality of why or why not such an act of demolishing 345 houses would be wrong. We simply saw the bulldozer at work, with no questions asked at all. Again, I ask, do these elected officials think that the Zambian people are so gullible?

It is unbecoming for a government which not so long ago was overwhelming voted for by the majority of our people, to have ministers and other officials make claims that are unfounded, and at times even issue misleading statements. All this, in an attempt to create an impression or narrative that we the citizens ought to listen to them, rather than the other way around. No government of any civilized country survives when led by such leaders, who do not listen to the masses, but only pretend to be doing so when it’s convenient. If such so-called leaders do exist anywhere in a democratic society, they do not last very long. The great Sual D. Alinsky makes it plain in his book, Rules for Radicals by stating that “the action is in the enemy’s reaction.” And that sums it up for all that we have seen before in our politics, which is all too familiar now with some of these so-called leaders of today. The actions of these so-called politicians on demolishing forest 27 is in their reaction. And what has been their reaction so far? Nothing! Their silence has been so loud on this matter since taking over government last year (2021).

Many people are left to wonder; why did this government hesitated not to destroy the structures in Kasompe area with no apologies, but yet they have gone mute on forest 27. Could this be because of the class of people who live in these both seemingly illegal settlements? Or maybe, is it the fact that the poor are so easy to push around, while the elite and the rich people of forest 27 or anywhere in the country are untouchable? If my memory serves me correctly, President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) when he was in opposition, he constantly complained on many occasions against the unfair application of the law then and what was seemingly selective justice which was undoubtedly practiced by his predecessor and the PF. Truth be told, this is nothing but classic example of selective justice when it comes to the demolishing of those houses for the poor in Chingola on one end. But on the other end, the rich people of forest 27 seems to have gotten a pass from government as the Hichilema administration looks on or pays a blind eye to the demolishing of forest 27 houses.

It is very predictable that honorable Gary Nkombo and his counterparts, will continue to give excuses on this subject of forest 27 up until the elections of 2026. And we are prepared to consistently remind the government of its commitment on this very important environmental issue (Forest 27). As for the victims of the Chingola’s heartless act, we hope the government will come through for them in terms of the promised compensation.

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