By OLIVER SAMBOKO
VILLAGERS of Ngabo area in Namwala are gearing up for a legal battle against opposition UPND president Hakainde Hichilema and another local businessman who have encroached on communal land.
A meeting has been called for today to map the way forward on how to raise money to hire a lawyer to represent the villagers who fear using the UPND-dominated local council.
The Namwala District Council is run by the UPND and villagers fear that the local authority was subordinate to the party president and would therefore not support their cause.
Early this year, the Daily Nation exposed a scam where Mr. Hichilema acquired over 1, 500 hectares of communal land in Ngabo area and proceeded to fence off the land against government orders.
The action has left more than 600 villages without grazing land in Mukobela and Muchila chiefdoms.
Another encroacher, a Namwala businessman, by the name of Mr. Shabbalo has also fenced off over 2, 000 hectares in the same area.
According to Headman Lukosha, efforts by the community to reclaim their land is almost proving impossible as the opposition leader has refused to remove the fence despite government ordering him to do so leaving the villagers with no option but to seek legal action.
He said following the refusal by the Zambia Police to pull down Mr. Hichilema’s fence and advise to the local authority and villagers to seek redress in the court of law before the police can move in, the villagers in Ngabo and surrounding areas will tomorrow meet to mobilise themselves and seek resources for a legal battle to get their land back.
He said the much anticipated meeting is the beginning for a long legal battle over land that has never been done in Zambia’s history and will set a precedence to those who are taking advantage of the country’s weak laws on land.
The headman said Mr. Shabbalo has already fenced off over 2, 000 hectares and that what is only remaining is him acquiring title to the land in question.
He said the communal land Mr. Hichilema and Mr. Shabalo have occupied is not only used for animal grazing but also for medicinal purpose by the locals.
Headman Lukosha also appealed to human rights lawyers and sympathisers to help the villagers in the area to fight for their land that has been grabbed by individuals with no heart for the poor.
”We are appealing to human rights lawyers and other well-wishers to come to our aid and help us defend our land that has been forcefully taken away from us by these powerful individuals who have no regard for the poor,” said Headman Lukosha.
He said suggestions by the Zambia Police that Namwala District Council should take legal action against Mr. Hichilema over the Ngabo land was an impossible mission as the local authority is run by the UPND councillors who are subordinates of the opposition party and Mr. Hichilema himself.