More than 300 houses built on land surrounding Kasompe Airstrip were demolished on 20th August 2022, beginning at 2am, by officers from Chingola Municipal Council and the Zambia Police Service. Completed houses as well as houses under construction were demolished.
Chingola Municipal Council stated it had not allocated the land in question and the buildings had been erected without planning permission from the local authority and that, on 15th February 2022, the Municipality had issued enforcement notices for suspension of all building works and to demolish the structures within 28 days .
A video shows houses in plots of land with gardens and trees being bulldozed and police in full riot gear. Residents appealed to the government to find them alternative land and some of them attempted to resist the demolition, burning tyres and breaking the windows of bulldozers . In a Daily Nation article, Rogers Kalero and Kalobwe Bwalya stated that, in response to the demolition of houses, a number of affected residents had set fire to two properties - a guesthouse and servants’ quarters - owned by Chingola Mayor, Johnson Kang’ombe, accusing him of selling them plots of land at Kasombe Airstrip.
Copperbelt Province commanding officer Sharon Zulu confirmed that two suspects thought to be involved in the burning of the Mayor’s properties were apprehended and detained for the offence of arson: a 23 year old claimed to be an illegal miner and a 15 year old school pupil.
Women protest and MP sympathises with victims Zinia Makina said her home as well as that of her aunt and other family members, had been demolished. She said her aunt, in her 60s, had collapsed from suspected high blood pressure after her house was demolished. Some demolition victims rubbished claims by the Mayor that he was innocent of allocating plots of land, saying he allocated the plots to them, assuring them they would be safe. Juliet Kapasala said “The Mayor cannot claim innocence on this matter. No. He is the one who gave us these plots and assured us that all was well, but we are now disappointed and devastated at this turn of events”. A group of women supported her and chanted slogans including “The Mayor must go”.
Chingola member of parliament Chipoka Mulenga, of the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) and also serving as Commerce, Trade and Industry minister, expressed shock at the demolitions saying he had no idea about the exercise. He cut short a trip to Nigeria to return and sympathise with victims and to help find a solution for affected families. Mulenga said it was sad that some affected people have valid documents while other do not, but everyone had lost their property. President of the Equity and Economic Party, Chilufya Tayali, said information had surfaced indicating that the demolition of the houses was driven by foreign interests in a mine near Kasompe Airstrip, not the purported illegality of allocation on plots of land .
Food relief and promise of alternative land Chingola District Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) chairperson, Jeff Mulenga, said DMMU was on the ground to offer assistance to people impacted by the demolition. He said people would be assisted according to their needs as some of the people did not occupy the houses. UPND Chingola District chairperson Scrivener Bwalya said the Government would not allow the people to be displaced. He said the party would meet with the local authority to ensure that affected people had a place to stay .
On 29th August it was reported that Chingola District Commissioner Raphael Chimupi had said that DMMU had given relief food items to 95 out of 98 families whose houses had been demolished. Each of the families received k1,000 cash (USD62.73), 25kg bags of mealie-meal, 5kg bags of rice and 2.5 kg of beans. Three families did not receive food because they did not turn up. DMMU also offered 40 rooms at the former Avic Chingola camp site for those who were still stranded without shelter, plus tents if the rooms ran out (Avic is a Chinese firm awarded contracts for roads and other projects in Chingola). He said only six affected families appeared to be stranded and had been accommodated at the camp site .
President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema, instructed Chipoka Mulenga MP to find alternative land for families who houses on Kasompe Airstrip had been demolished. Mulenga said the government would provide land and money to the victims of the demolition of 345 houses .
On 25th August it was reported that Chipoka Mulenga MP had secured 6 hectares of land adjacent to Kasompe Airstrip for affected families, through a wellwisher, immediately engaging the local authority to administer this land to the victims. Addressing affected families Mulenga said affected families were secure in terms of alternative land, particularly those who were occupying their illegally constructed houses. He said these victims would be temporarily housed at Chingola Municipal Council hostels and some financial support would be given to them by the DMMU. He cautioned people against engaging in undocumented land dealings, warning them against buying land from elected officials and members of any political party, saying they should only buy land from the Council planning department after allocation by Council Surveyors .
Warnings against illegal land allocation Chingola Mayor, Johnson Kang’ombe, said the municipality would not allow illegal land allocation and appealed to Councillors to avoid allocating land to unsuspecting residents. Speaking on community radio he said only the Council could allocate land and that they Kasompe Airstrip demolition was unfortunate as people were given the land by unscrupulous people. Kang’ombe said he tried to halt the demolition but could not do so as the directive to carry it out had already been given. He said the Council had established a fast-track court to deal with illegal land allocation but, in spite of the demolition that had devasted the Kasompe Airstrip district, people were still building houses in many places, including graveyards. He said “We have learned a lesson from the Kasompe Airstrip demolition, going forward we will ensure that demolition is the last option, we will make sure that all options are done, we hope and are certain that this will be the last demolition done in the district.”.
Visiting affected residents in the Kasompe Airstrip area Chipoka Mulenga MP encouraged them to name and shame the illegal land allocators. He said he would do what he could to help them, as most of them were spending nights out in the cold. “I will do everything in my power to help resolve this issue, it is saddening to see a lot of houses demolished, which has left many families in the cold, it is painful to lose property in such a manner”, he said. Chipoka also said he would meet with the Civil Aviation Authority to ascertain the boundaries of its lan .
The Zambia Land Alliance said the demolition of illegal structures in Chingola served as a lesson to Zambians and local authorities to follow the law in the acquisition and allocation of land. Executive Director Patrick Musole said it is a grave concern that for many years local authorities have allegedly been perpetrators of illegality in land allocation, as evidenced by testimonies of some victims of the Chingola demolitions, on land allegedly acquired from Chingola Municipal Council .
Criticism of demolitions and authorities Patriotic Front Copperbelt Chairman Nathan Chanda said the party was shocked by Chingola Municipal Councils’ decision to demolish the houses without finding alternative places to accommodate them, saying it was inhumane. He said “The Chingola Municipal Council should find alternative land and give it to the affected people without fail, because Civil leaders must always look at the welfare of people first before harsh decisions are made”. He added that the Council could have stopped construction of the houses through a court order .
Catholic Diocese of Ndola Bishop Benjamin Phiri said he was particularly saddened by the demolition of houses on Kasompe Airstrip land, saying it was a series of poor decisions by various stakeholders. He said authorities should have sat down with stakeholders to find the best way forward and only woke up to the problem when the illegal structures were finished .
In a letter published in The Independent Observer Joseph Kangwa, a youth activist and resident of Chingola Township, was critical of Chipoka Mulenga MP’s claims he was unaware of the planned demolition of the houses, stating that his ‘alleged ignorance simply goes to show that his distance from the pain and welfare of his victims is so immense that even the crying and suffering of his people fail to touch him’. Kangwa writes that giving the demolition victims land was not enough when the culprits who allocated them illegal plots were free and sleeping in houses .
The Zambia Air Force (ZAF) denied allegations that it has influenced or pressured Chingola Municipal Council to demolish the houses on Kasompe Airstrip land. ZAF Director Public Relations Lieutenant Colonel Helen Chota said the rumour were incorrect and that none of the other ZAF airstrips had been encroached . Yet the day after the demolitions, 21st August 2022, it was reported that ZAF Commander Lieutenant Colon Barry had urged citizens of more house demolitions across the country. He said houses and other structures built within 500 metres of airport infrastructure will be demolished adding that building civilian structures on or near airports is a threat to national security .
On 27th September 2022 it was reported that victims of the demolitions were still stranded and had cried foul over Chingola Municipal Council’s decision to ‘dump them’ at the former Avic campsite. About 33 families were at the former Avic campsite while others were seeking shelter in Kabundi Township. Victims were concerned that civic leaders had not engaged with them on the way forward. Chingola Mayor Johnson Kang’ombe said the issue had been presented in the full council meeting and processes to reallocate land to affected people were being finalised .