By Patson Chilemba
Colonel Panji Kaunda has reported the shielding of Edgar Lungu’s daughter, Tasila, over the alleged fencing of gazetted Forest Number 70 by Lands minister Jean Kapata and her permanent secretary Ndashe Yumba to the ACC.
In a letter obtained by Daily Revelation, dated December 17, 2019 addressed to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director general, and filed with the Commission’s offices in Chipata, Col Panji stated that efforts to get Lands and Environmental Protection minister Kapata and her permanent secretary Yumba to act on the matter had proved futile, despite meeting and formally complaining to them.
“Early this year we noticed that (the approximately 3790 hectares) Forest P70 also known as Chimutengo Forest in Sinda District is being fenced off. What was of interest to us was that the fencing had included a private farm allegedly owned by Miss Tasila Lungu, and gates had been erected at the entrances of both the private land and the main gate of the forest,” the letter read in part. “We made inquiries with the forest department in Chipata under whose jurisdiction the said forest falls, we wanted to know if permission was given and who had fenced off both properties.”
Col Panji stated that at the time inquiries were made, no official permission had been issued by the Forestry Department on the said erection of the fence, and that efforts to stop the construction had been ignored, despite the officials failing to state publicly the name of the person behind the project.
“Through various press statements from newslines, we hear it is allegedly Miss Tasila Lungu who owns this project, but up to today there is no official confirmation on the same,” the letter read in part. “In early October, we wrote to the Minister of Lands Jean Kapata seeking an explanation from the Ministry as to how the said had been fenced off which included a privately owned farm and also as to who was responsible for the project (copy attached).”
Col Panji, however, stated that, to date there has been no response from the Ministry acknowledging receipt of the letters of complaint on the matter.
“Later in November, driving into Lusaka, we noticed Bill Boards (three) one at each end of the fence and another at the main entrance of the forest. We went and made inquiries as to who had erected these boards, that gave the impression that the fencing was done by the government as they showed logos of the Forest Department, USAID and government,” Col Panji stated. “We went to see the department of forestry in Lusaka and were told that the report had been submitted to Ministry headquarters. We saw the Permanent Secretary Lands and he told us ‘They do not work on rumours.’ We wrote to him on or around 15th November, 2019 attaching the photographs of each Board (copies attached). When they were called to follow up, we were told they were looking into the matter.”
Col Panji said all the possible avenues to get clarification on the matter had been unsuccessful, hence the decision to write to the Commission.
“It is an offence for anyone to enter a forest without authority or permit according to the forestry act, and that anyone found breaking this law is bound to be punished,” Col Panji stated. “The fence did not come up overnight it took months to finish and everyone who has driven past the forest including the local community should have seen it, including the officers from the forestry department.”
Col Panji wondered why the the project was allowed to continue to its completion when no authority was given.
“Why has the the Ministry of Lands remained silent on such an important public matter despite our queries and that of the press. Officially the Ministry has not acknowledged as to who owns this project leading to public speculations. What is it that they are hiding from the public?” asked Col Panji. “It is against the above background that we seek the help of your good offices, to help us and indeed the public find answers to the above questions. Lastly, this is a very expensive exercise, we would like to also know how this project was funded, and if all regulations concerning investors were followed. Yours in National Struggle.”