GOVERNMENT officers at the Zambia Forest College and the National Aquaculture Research and Development Centre (NARDC) in Kitwe’s Mwekera area have been implicated in the illegal allocation of land in the Mwekera National Forest Reserve.
The officers have allegedly allocated themselves huge pieces of land in the forest reserve and are also encouraging people to encroach in the forest reserve.
Kitwe district commissioner Chanda Kabwe has since instructed the police to investigate the matter and ensure that any officer found to have allocated himself land within the forest reserve faced the wrath of the law.
Mr Kabwe issued the warning yesterday during the tour of the forest reserve after district forestry officer Asenic Hampongo informed him that some members of staff at the two colleges were allocating themselves huge pieces of land in the forest reserve, instead of protecting the forest.
He said it was embarrassing for Government officers to be involved in illegal allocation of land instead of safeguarding the State forest from being ravaged.
“As Government, we don’t want to tolerate illegality. If something is illegal, there are no two ways about. It is illegal and so those Government officers at Mwekera who are involved in the illegal allocation of land must be pursued. So I am instructing the police to pursue this matter to its logical conclusion.
“It is sad to hear that Government officers can be allocating themselves huge pieces of land in the forest and also encouraging people to encroach on State land. If Government officers are leading the way in breaking the law, then we should deal with them so that we set an example by punishing them,” Mr Kabwe said.
And speaking earlier, Mr Hampongo said squatters who have settled in the forest reserve should unconditionally vacate the forest because they settled in an area they knew was not a settlement area.
Mr Hampongo said it was sad that despite the Government demarcating the forest and giving them 6,300 hectares of land, the squatters were still reluctant to move and had instead continued to ravage the forest.
He said the Forest Department would ensure that the squatters in the forest vacate the area without any conditions because a forest was not a settlement area.
“These people know that they are squatters, but they deliberately decided to settle in the forest, but as Forest Department we are telling them to leave the forest reserve and allow the forest to play its ecological roles.
“Government has given them 6,300 hectares of land but they do not want to move out. These people have to vacate the forest reserve regardless of how much they have invested. They knew they were settling in the forest reserve, but they did it deliberately,” Mr Hampongo said.