WE are shocked to have learnt that the Kitwe City Council has reported that it has received applications for change of land use for some play parks and open spaces in the city.
What is shocking is that the council could even entertain considering such applications when local authorities have been ordered not to sell or lease any of their properties.
Copperbelt Minister Japhen Mwakalombe must be commended for having put a stop to this strange development when no circular had allowed the local authority to do what it had done.
It is not very long ago that Government ordered local authorities not to sale or lease any property.
The order was issued by the Minister of Local Government Dr Charles Bnada after it emerged that some councils had engaged in suspicious dealings to dispose of public property before the dissolution of Parliament and Councils.
This is expected to be done by the middle of May to pave way for the August 12 tripartite elections.
The idea behind the ban was to curtail the planned plunder of council property by unscrupulous councillors – as part of their severance package.
Dr Banda even directed that all contracts that had been signed to do with such sales or leases should be cancelled, and where money had exchanged hands, it should be refunded.
In the Kitwe saga, Mr Mwakalombe expressed disappointment that the council could allow such an illegality to continue happening right under its nose.
As Mr Mwakalombe unearthed, applications for change of land use were for the stand number KIT/1226, Independence Avenue, Parklands, 6163 Zambezi Way, Riverside, stand number 5400 Kaminda Drive, Riverside and stand number 674 Nationalist Road, Parklands.
Also involved was stand number KIT/915, Zambezi Way, Riverside, which was earmarked for construction of a mini-hospital, but allocated to a private developer to put up a commercial property.
Anyone who knows Kitwe will testify that these are prime upmarket areas and a lot of money could have passed hands or promissory notes made.
But thankfully, Mr Mwakalombe intervened and ordered a stop to the suspect developments.
What is more baffling is that even the Kitwe Town Clerk, Mr Mbulo Seke, said the council had no record of giving documentation about the parks in question.
Yet, the Chief Lands Officer, Mr Harry Shamende, maintained that his office received recommendations from the local authority, that it was the more reason his office proceeded with the process of giving the title deeds.
Who between the two is telling the truth?
This is a clear case where the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zambia Police Service must investigate and get to the root of the corruption.
After all, this is not the first time that councilors at the two councils have been found wanting over alleged illegal land transactions.
We recall that after the two councils were suspended last year and a land audit done, some names of councilors were reported to the law enforcement agencies for prosecution. What has happened?
Obviously, bad habits die hard as the adage goes and we would not be surprised if some of the names reported earlier appeared on the list of culprits this time round.
The Kitwe District Commissioner, Mr Chileshe Bweupe vowed that a thorough investigation would be done to know how the documentation for the spaces was done.
Yes, that is the way to go but we hope the investigation would lead to criminal prosecution of those involved and hopefully restore confidence in the local authority.