… As his agents put beacons on the land
In spite of protests and Government efforts to mediate in the Ngabo villagers’ land row in Namwala district, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s agents have reportedly gone ahead to place beacons on it.
The development has thrown some uncertainty on the villagers who now do not know whether they will prepare the land for the 2016/17 farming season with the approaching rains.
In July this year, Mr. Hichilema allegedly connived with a named Chief and acquired about 1,500 hectares of land belonging to the community, leaving 40 families without farming and grazing land for their animals.
However, Government intervened and facilitated for the families to go back to their land and settle but there was still an uneasy relationship between Mr. Hichilema and the villagers as his agents were reportedly putting beacons around the same piece of land much to the dismay of the villagers.
Namwala District Commissioner Mary Sakala told the Daily Nation yesterday that the problem had not been sorted out as Mr. Hichilema’s agents had gone back to mark out the land where the villagers were settled.
Ms. Sakala said she had received a report from the villagers that even after Government allowed the affected people to go back to their land, Mr. Hichilema’s agents had not left the area and were actually putting some beacons around it although their intentions were not yet known.
She has asked to meet the villagers this week so that a permanent solution could be found, adding that the villagers were worried that they might not plant their fields this season since Mr. Hichilema appeared adamant over the matter.
“Government facilitated that those people go back to their land and that is where they are right now but I can say that the wrangle is not completely over because last week, some villagers came to my office to complain that Mr. Hichilema’s agents were putting beacons on the same land and I have advised the villagers to come back so that we can sort out this issue because that is their land and if they are told to leave, it means they will not have grazing and farming land. They have nowhere else to go,” Ms. Sakala said. Apart from denying the villagers grazing land for their cattle, which was their main source of livelihood, Mr Hichilema had allegedly denied them access to their only source of water as he has reportedly personalised two communal boreholes from which they fetched water for domestic use.
The land saga was initially reported to the district administration and a team comprising security personnel visited the area and observed that in accordance with the chief’s authority, a traditional leader could only give out about 250 hectares of land while the land in question was over 1,000 hectares.