Farmers protest Solwezi council’s failure to pay compensation

More than 200 residents of Mbonge in Chief Kapijimpanga’s area have protested the lack of compensation after being evicted from their lands three years ago to make way for the construction of Kabitaka Housing Project by Kansanshi mine.

The residents blocked access to Kabitaka Housing project at about 05:00 hours, preventing people from either entering or going out of the complex.

A Daily Nation crew that rushed to the site at 06hrs found angry villagers had blocked access into the settlement area demanding to be paid by the mine.

About 168 out of 270 families were compensated after being evicted in 2012 while 102 families have been claiming inadequate compensation of as little as K80 or K120.

Kabitaka farmers chairman Paison Munguya said the group decided to hold peaceful protest following non-compliance by the necessary authorities to compensate the people.

“The council has been adamant over our plight and has exhibited careless and gross neglect to the well- being of us as farmers.  We are not violent people this is a peaceful protest which we decided on because our cries to our leaders have fallen on deaf ears.We are not dogs we should not be forced to live in abject poverty so that greedy people can benefit from our suffering,” Mr Munguya said.

And Kansanshi Mine PLC has said the issue was between the farmers and the council.

Kansanshi Mine Public relations manager Godfrey Msiska said the mine paid K14 million to resettle those affected by the Kabitaka housing project

Meanwhile, North-Western Province minister Dawson Kafwaya who was at hand to calm the farmers said he was disappointed with the behaviour exhibited by the council in handling the issue.

“Am surprised that this issue has dragged for this long while our people are suffering,” he said

The minister who was apologetic to the people castigated the council for dragging an issue that should have been resolved before the people were evicted.

“According to procedure you were supposed to settle the inconvenienced farmers before beginning the project three years ago. Government will not tolerate indiscipline and lack of respect for procedure because this is what is causing problems for us as Government and as citizens,” he said.

Mr Kafwaya said it was the mandate of Government to protect the interests of the people and ensure that their rights and needs are met.

“Excuses by the council will not be accepted because the mine has given them the money so payments should begin, my assumption is that the money is still in the council’s accounts,” he said.

Mr Kafwaya also bemoaned the low compensation rates received by some of the farmers.

And Solwezi Municipal Council acknowledged that the council received money from the mine for compensation of the farmers.

Council director of planning Naomi Simwanza said the council recognised its responsibility to settle farmers.

She said the council had been facing challenges in accessing the assessment report on hectares from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“We can’t begin paying out money without a concrete report from the Agriculture Department who are responsible for evaluating each farm land,” she said.