LOCAL Government Minister John Phiri deserves kudos for demanding a comprehensive report on the illegal sale of properties belonging to the Lusaka City Council.
By this action alone, Dr Phiri has in a way made effort to safeguard people’s property which was in the process of going in private hands without following the established channels.
Those who are familiar with the Local Government Act know that local authorities, although empowered to make by-laws cannot arbitrarily implement decisions without the authority of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing.
Therein lies the question whether the properties that have gone into private hands have had the Ministry of Local Government’s approval?
The scandal at the Lusaka City Council cannot be allowed to continue as though the properties involved are private family matters.
Council properties belong to communities in which a local authority is established and they should be used by the communities.
Therefore, while appreciating the minister’s directive, it should be noted that the plunder has not started now.
In his own words, Lusaka City Council Town Clerk Alex Mwansa has admitted that some of council property has been in private hands for over 15 years and the council was planning to repossess them.
This is no way to keep community property which could have otherwise used to generate revenue for the local authority.
Instead of demanding a rushed comprehensive report from the Lusaka City Council, it is our view that a thorough investigation, involving security wings, is conducted.
This is because there could be a lot of money in the scam which has been going on for so many years.
For example, what will Government do to individuals who have been collecting car park levies at Northmead for over 10 years?
Should the council just demand the car park back and let history go to sleep as though no money was involved?
Government should convince itself that the holding of council property by private individuals was plunder and people should be made to refund the council or be prosecuted.
There are so many social services that are not provided by the Lusaka City Council using the excuse of lack of resources, when in fact it simply does not care to carry out an inventory of the properties it has and how much it was collecting.
We hope the directive by the Minister of Local Government to the Lusaka City Council is the first step in bringing sanity in the local government administration.
It is also our expectation that other leaders would act as Dr Phiri has done when the media highlight bad governance in any sector.