MINISTER, COUNCIL IN LAND BATTLE….

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SUN REPORTER writes

A Land raw has erupted between Gender Minister Elizabeth Phiri and Chongwe District Council over a piece of land earmarked for construction of a clinic in Silverest residential area, on Great East Road.

Chongwe District Council has accused Ms. Phiri of grabbing the land, measuring 1.373 hectares, using her position, but the minister has threatened to sue the local authority for interference because she is the rightful owner of the plot.

“Actually, I am a law maker, and I believe in doing all things by the law, said Minister Phiri who is Member of Parliament for Kanyama Constituency.

She explained that, “The plot in question has never been in an individual’s name. It was in an institution name. When there was a land audit, Ministry of lands advertised it in the newspaper, and I went ahead to apply for the same, and it took almost a year to be processed. I waited until they finished their procedure of repossession and I was given a letter of offer.”

“Because it was my plot, I went ahead to apply for a title deed which I already have. It was approved, certified by a government surveyor. I even went ahead to get approved plans for construction,” Ms. Phiri said.

“I did not get that plot from the council but Ministry of Lands.  If anything, I am expecting Ministry of Health to approach me to say that they owned the plot at one time,” she said during an interview with The Sun in Lusaka on Sunday.

But according to a senior council official, the land in question, situated on plot. No. 23202/M, was earmarked for construction of a clinic when Ministry of Lands regularized Silverest as a residential area, but that the minister, who lives nearby, decided to grab it using her position.

“It is clear from the site plans that the land in question was meant for a clinic. The council already sunk a borehole on it in readiness to build a clinic but she went behind and got an offer letter for it dubiously, and built a boundary wall around it,” charged the official.

But Ms. Phiri insisted she was the legal owner of the land and queried how the Commissioner of Lands could have signed title deeds for it if there was something dubious about it.

“I am in fact the second owner of that plot. It was given to me after the first owner failed to develop it,” said the gender minister who already holds title deed No. 50085 for the same plot, dated October 17, 2018.

“When we talk about surveyor’s plans here in Lusaka, there is no plan which has not changed. The plans that the council have are not the plans which are on the ground. You will find that on plan there is something else and what is on the ground is something else. It’s up to Ministry of Lands who are the custodians,” she said.

The minister said she had temporarily stopped construction of the boundary wall around the plot after an instruction from Chongwe District Council to do so.

“They should just accept that the land belongs to me. In case they owe people money over it, they should look for it elsewhere and refund them.”

She claimed some officials at the district council were unhappy about her ownership of the plot because they are involved in shoddy land deals and may have had ‘plans’ for the same piece of land.

She said, “When I was given a letter of offer, I found that some people had already sold the plot to other people even when I already had a letter of offer for it. There is even a foundation done by one of the buyers.”

But when queried about Minister Phiri’s claims, Chongwe District Council public relations officer, Musonda Mino, only promised to call back after 30 minutes but did not. He later switched off his phone.

Ministry of Lands spokesperson, Diniwe Zulu, could not be immediately reached for a comment.

In a related development, a Patriotic Front (PF) official in the same residential area has revealed that a matter is in court involving another piece of land, reserved for a market, but which a named former Ministry of Lands employee allegedly subdivided and sold to individual developers.

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