Redouble Efforts to Curb Illegal Land Allocation

THE ever-increasing violent land grabbing by suspected political party cadres in Lusaka is set to degenerate into a more profound conflict unless the police instill fear in land thieves.

It is surprisingly no longer uncommon to hear legitimate land owners around Lusaka being harassed by cadres and squatters eager to get hold of the land that does not belong to them.

Some people have died as a result of being beaten by ruthless cadres, while landowners have lost freedom and piece because of persistent attackers from land invaders.

These cadres have aligned themselves with a ruling party at any given time in their illegal acts.

However, such alignment is proving to be nothing but a desperate way of seeking political protection in criminal acts.

While most of the land thieves claimed to be MMD before 2011 elections, today’s invaders in almost every corner of the city claim to be PF card-carrying members with the power to allocate the land.

There is, however, a g perception that most of the people involved in the illegal land allocation are one and the same but have been crossing from one party to another depending on who is in power.

“They are the same people who claimed to be in the MMD that time and now they have changed their colours because they want political protection,” said Elijah Kasonso, managing director for CK Marble, an estate firm that has fought battles with the cadres for almost a decade now.

It was only last week when 80 suspected political party cadres armed with machetes went on rampage demarcating a farm belonging to Siisii Lisulo in Lusaka West.

One cadre was reportedly killed, while a police officer who was among the security personnel trying to quell the illegal act sustained serious injuries from the attack by the cadres.

Some criminals are said to have threatened to petrol-bomb Mr Lisulo’s farm house and harm his family members because he is resisting vacating the property.

Mr Lisulo who could not control his trauma said he recently discovered a container of petrol near his house which he suspected was hidden by the cadres in readiness for the bombing of his house.

“We received information that these people are planning to attack us at night at about 02:00 hours or 03:00 hours any day,” Mr Lisulo said.

“They have bought petrol and that they are going to petrol-bomb the house. They are saying they will make sure that we shift from this place so that they can take control of the farm.

As I am talking to you, my family is in danger.”

Mr Lisulo is not alone. CK Marble has persistently suffered similar threats with its managing director Mr Kasonso losing property worth millions of Kwacha after the invaders set ablaze his house in 2011.

Besides, Mr Kasonso has on several occasions survived deadly attacks from cadres who feel he is the stumbling block in their quest to take control of his piece of land.

Shockingly, with a few exceptions, those purportedly driving the noxious crusade against rightful owners of the pieces of land appear to continue enjoying unfettered freedom in society.

Questions are being raised: Is the police intimidated by the cadres does the police have the capacity to contain land theft by successfully prosecuting the culprits, or is it business as usual.

“I think the police should be firm with these criminals,” Mr Kasonso said. “These people should be treated like criminals by arresting them and prosecuting them instead of being released every time they are arrested.”

“We know them and we are ready to help the police with information on how to get them, but it is sad that in many cases, these people have been released without being prosecuted.”

Residents in Lusaka West are currently living in fear after the cadres recently raided their homes at midnight ordering them to vacate or get killed.

A police officer, who is one of residents in the area, was injured after being hacked on his head by the cadres.

“The situation is bad here, because they (cadres) can pounce on us any time,” said one of the residents in the area. “The police are not helping matters because even when they arrest them, we see them (cadres) walking to freedom the following day.”

But police spokesperson, Charity Munganga-Chanda told the Sunday Times that officers are not intimidated by anyone when dealing with land thieves.

“Those are criminals that want to use the name of the ruling party to win freedom,” she said. “We have always heard about those claims but we have always rounded them up.”

“As we are speaking, 11 people are appearing in court in relation to what happened in Lusaka West and we have more who have been arrested recently and will soon be going to court for criminal trespass,” Ms Chanda added.

But the perturbing fact is that suspected cadres appear to possess enough power to even threaten police officers that have dared to intervene in their battle with landowners.

This is evidenced by the severe beating of a police officer by the mob when he and other men in uniforms went to stop the unruly behaviour recently.

The deteriorating situation has generated massive interest from not only the affected people but also institutions such as the Human Rights Commission (HRC).

“We implore law enforcement officers to redouble their efforts and arrest these gangs of suspected cadres,” HRC spokesperson Samuel Kasankha said.

“It is an inalienable right for all persons to own property including land as provided for in the constitution.”

Two deputy ministers were last week forced to visit the ‘battle ground’ in Lusaka West to have the first hand information on the harassment of innocent people.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Stephen Kampyongo and his counterpart at Local Government and Housing Forrie Tembo were left disappointed with the manner in which criminals were using the name of the PF to harass innocent citizens.

“These people are like criminals who grab other people’s cars,” Mr Kampyongo said. “We will deal with them and those who have been arrested will face the law accordingly.”

Mr Kampyongo revealed that the Government will constitute a team of officers from his ministry and that of the Local Government and Housing to deal with illegal land acquisitions.

He also warned that the Government will not allow criminals to attack police officers who are providing security to the people.

It is clear that every effort that is being put in place to curb illegal land allocation should be redoubled if people are to be guaranteed peace and freedom.

The formation of a team of officers from the ministry of Local Government and Home Affairs is not good enough unless severe punishment is melted out on culprits.

This will require all stakeholders including political leaders to isolate these criminals by naming and shaming them every time they are found wanting.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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