Kabwe council corruption mystery
Published On October 16, 2017 » 3264 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
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IT is in public domain that the Kabwe Municipal Council has tried to shrug off a glittering corruption tag that has stuck to it for years now because of the manner it has been allocating plots.
Its image has further been dented because of the soft manner it has dealt with criminal elements involved in land scandals in the provincial capital.
Nearly every time that the local authority has made a development decision associated with land allocation, the process has never been free from allegations of corruption, fraud and favoritism.
Where are these allegations coming from?
It is hardly an exaggeration to state that most problems at the municipality are historical in nature, dating back as far as 2010.
But it is equally not far from the truth to suggest that successive office holders have largely adopted the bad practices thereby failing to retain sanity in the municipality.
Sometime last year, the Kabwe Municipal Council leased Coronation Play Park, located in town centre area, to Unity Distributors to construct a mini shopping mall.
However, little did the local authority realise it was entering a protracted battle with some residents which would not only leave it with scars of accusations of bribery, but also a prolonged delay to complete the project.
Those opposed to the change of the park into a shopping mall claimed that the council had offered the piece of prime land for just K20,000 without advertising.
Kabwe Central Member of Parliament (MP) Tutwa Ngulube led the assault on the council and called on the local authority to annul the agreement and advertise the land before picking the developer.
The council has always been adamant that the due process was followed and there was no irregularity in the manner the park was leased to a private developer.
The construction of the recently commissioned first-ever Kabwe Shopping Mall on the Great North Road could have drawn the town closer to the much-craved for city status, but its appearance was not as smooth as its sparkly buildings suggest.
The local authority, or is it some officials at the council, persistently faced accusations of cheaply leasing out council machinery to the developer so that they could personally benefit from the deal.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Ngulube was again leading the long queue of those who directed their arsenals at the council and its officials for allegedly receiving cutbacks before leasing the equipment.
More recently perhaps is the ongoing saga of some commercial plots in Lukanga where 29 individuals are seeking court redress over the council’s decision to build a transit bus station just opposite the Kabwe Shopping Mall.
According to a claim in the Lusaka High Court by Bernard Chisanga and others, the council is being accused of unleashing graders to pave way for a bus station on private individuals’ plots without pre-notification.
Mr Ngulube is representing the 29 and the matter is yet to be determined in court.
Are they genuine accusations?
It’s hardly a secret that land allocation has apparently caused so much headache for Kabwe Mayor Prince Chileshe and his team at the council because nearly each plot the council touches attracts controversy.
Mr Chileshe has had problems even with his own councilors and some officials at the council whom he has admitted that they were behind some of the illegal plot allocations in Kabwe.
On many occasions, Mr Chileshe has also admitted that the local authority was currently overwhelmed by past mistakes which it was trying hard to correct.
He says he had discovered that some former officials at the council were so desperate during their time at the local authority such that they even forged council meeting minutes in order to facilitate the illegal allocation of land.
The climax of the accusations in land allocation came last year when councilors decided to take a more audacious decision by offering themselves plots before advertising over 1,000 pieces of land to the public.
Shamelessly, such a decision by the councilors was made during their first full council meeting after being elected in the 2016 general elections.
While many looked at it as tantamount to corruption, the council defended it.
Mr Chileshe and Kabwe Town Clerk Ronald Daka said the decision was aimed at curbing graft amongst councilors.
The council’s decision was based on an archaic and illegal practice by many councilors across the country that have misled citizens to believe that they (councilors) are entitled to a plot during a term of office by virtue of being a councilor!
Everyone certainly knows by now that a few months later, the council’s land administration agency was suspended until now.
Lands Minister Jean Kapata said the decision was arrived at after high prevalence of illegality and lawlessness in land allocation and acquisition.
“In this regard and in accordance with the Administrative Circular Number One of 1985, I am suspending the agency of Kabwe Municipal Council… for failure to adhere to the guidelines and procedures in the administration of land,” she said.
How can the council avoid these allegations and win back the confidence of the public in Kabwe?
Whether or not the current leadership is doing enough to regain public confidence by addressing concerns of corruption is a debate that can take days if not years to conclude.
The mayor and his council have a full list of ‘troublesome boys’ – those that have been behind illegal allocation now and in the past.
Mr Chileshe announced in June this year that the local authority was set to suspend David Lamushi Ward Councilor Patrick Mumba who was accused of being behind the illegal sell of land reserved for the Multi-Facility Economic Facility Zone (MFEZ).
This followed an outcry suggesting that a piece of land that had been earmarked for industrialization in Kabwe had been encroached with more than 30 houses.
The suspension of the councilor never took place, and even if the full council meeting was held, it never bothered to talk about Mr Mumba despite those serious allegations.
A few weeks later, five people, including Chimanimani Ward Councilor Frazer Makaliki, were arrested over illegal land allocation.
Apparently, the arrests appeared to have been enforced by Central Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kabwe who had taken a hardline stance against illegal land allocation.
“We are not scared to go for by-elections so we’ll not spare any councilors that are engaged in illegal land allocation; we’ll ensure they are arrested and prosecuted,” Mr Kabwe had warned.
Mr Makaliki hardly stayed in police cells – neither did he appear in court despite the wide publicity that surrounded his arrest.
He remains a free man enjoying all the privileges that come with the position of being councilor.
While it is indisputable that like any other citizen, councilors are entitled to a plot, it does not need rocket science to determine that the office of a councilor does not come with a plot as part of condition of service for the civic leader.
That is an excuse used by individuals that are greedy and selfish as they try to manipulate the public.
In order for the council to gain public sympathy and support, councilors that are accused of illegal plot allocation must face the wrath of the real law.
Many are the times that council leaders have apparently vowed in the media that they are dealing with perpetrators of illegal land allocation, regardless of their position.
However, the reality remains that the council has taken a soft stance on individuals, particularly councilors, that have led to its suspension of the land agency by the Ministry of lands.
Sadly, people like Permanent Secretary Mr Kabwe that have tried to deal sternly with land thieves have only ended up making more enemies in Kabwe.
Until the local authority changes its stance in the manner it deals with perpetrators of illegal land allocation, it would be a long tiresome journey before the Ministry of Lands can think about restoring the agency.
There are many times that Town Clerk Ronald Daka has accused the media of hating him in the negative manner they have reported on land issues in Kabwe.
However, the chief executive officer and his team appears to have a big task to convince the public, with evidence, that those that are behind illegal plot allocation are dealt with firmly to send a strong warning to would-be offenders.
Apart from punishing offenders, there is need for the local authority to exercise maximum transparency and accountability in the process of allocating land if it is to regain public confidence and convince the Ministry of Lands that it is ready to reacquire the land agency.

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