By SIMON MUNTEMBA
LAND wrangle between the Catholic Church and settlers around Kasaria area in Mufulira District has broken out, with both parties claiming ownership.
But Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Elijah Muchima has called for calm among all the affected groups, as government would help them find a lasting solution to the impasse.
Government in 2017 through the Ministry of Lands issued a 3000 hectares title deed to the Catholic Church for the establishment of an eco-city comprising Agricultural and Science Universities, social amenities and economics in Kasaria Village formerly Reserve Forest No. 14. The Church also intended to establish a secondary school among other amenities.
However, some seasonal farmers in the area claim to also have permits from the Forestry Department.
The farmers through their representative, Hagai Lesa have objected to governments move to issue a title deed to the Catholic Church as that would result in their eviction from the land.
In an interview, Mr Lesa said they have been cultivating the land since 2009 and the said piece of land had been their source of livelihoods for a long time.
He said farmers were surprised that while they were the ones pushing for the degazation of the forest, government seems to be siding with the Catholic Church.
But Mr Muchima has called for calm among the Kasaria settlers as government was trying to find an amicable solution to their impasse.
Mr Muchima said there was urgent need for government through the Ministries of Lands, Mines, the council and all affected groups to sit down and find a lasting solution to the standoff.
The minister disclosed that he had a private meeting with the Catholic Church over the matter.
He however said government’s duty was to protect the interests of all stakeholders without favoring one party.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Lands legal counsel Chrispin Chaebwa said according to the law, government only recognises the title holder to the piece of land.