The Lusaka High court has dismissed the case in which illegal squatters in the Mumbwa Game Management Area (GMA) had sought an injunction restraining the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) from acting on the Lands tribunal’s judgement to relocate them from the GMA to an alternative area.
The settlers had alleged that they had been living in the GMA for generations, but that following negotiations with ZAWA, their lawyers proceeded to execute a consent judgement for them to move away from the GMA to an alternative area.
But after thoroughly studying their submissions and those of ZAWA through its legal Counsel, Kampamba Kombe, High Court Justice Mubanga Kondolo this week found that the applicants had failed to substantiate their claims and establish a case against ZAWA.
“I find that the applicants have failed to establish that there is a serious question to be tried and that they have good prospects to of succeeding in their claim. In the premises, this application is dismissed and the ex-parte orders of the injunction granted to the applicants on 29th December and the 2nd of December, 2013 are discharged,” Justice Kondolo said.
With this ruling, ZAWA is appealing to the squatters to vacate the GMA as earlier ordered by the Lands Tribunal on the 4th of September 2013.
The court had ordered that the squatters should relocate from the aforesaid zones by 30th November 2013, failure to which they would be forcibly evicted by government through various law enforcement wings. This is because they have settled in areas that have been reserved exclusively for wildlife by the indigenous people of Mulendema, Kabulwebulwe and Chibuluma Chiefdoms. These Communities derive benefits in form of revenue and employment from both consumptive and non consumptive tourism which takes place in this area.
Since migrants started settling in this area, indigenous communities and ZAWA have suffered loss in terms of revenue from wildlife, wildlife habitat loss due to rampant deforestation by the immigrant settlers, increase in poaching activities, especially of key species such as elephants and other vices.
The Zambia Wildlife Act No. 12 of 1998 provides for the co-existence of people and animals in the GMA, subject to the provisions of a General Management Plan. Mumbwa GMA has a General Management Plan in place. This document has a Zonation Map which provides for areas of settlement for people, wildlife areas and areas reserved for tourism activities. This document represents the aspiration and vision of the people of Mulendema, Kabulwebulwe and Chibuluma with regard to how they would like their land to be administered. The indigenous communities have complied with the provision of the General Management Plan and are settled in the Open areas and development zone of the GMA.
Communities were aggrieved that from the initial 15 households who settled in the area, the numbers have shot up to about 1,011 households and counting. They also feel aggrieved because they relocated from this area in the 1950s to pave way for conservation of wildlife both for themselves and their children. They therefore take exception to the fact that people are migrating for faraway places and settling in their prime land and desecrating it.
ZAWA feels aggrieved because the increase in human settlements has led to extensive habitat loss, increase in poaching activities and the loss of economic value of the Mumbwa GMA which is a major income earner for the protection of Zambia’s vast wildlife estate.
ZAWA wishes to once again appeal to everyone to support the Authority by assigning value to wildlife by settling in the areas provided for them and allowing wildlife to flourish as well. Wildlife is part of Zambia’s precious heritage and therefore every Zambian is duty bound to protect it.
It’s understood that people need areas of settlement and other developmental activities. This however, should not be at the expense of other equally important elements of our survival such as wildlife and its habitat. We believe that there is still adequate land available for settlement across the country without having to resort to encroachment in areas reserved for wildlife management.
Article By: Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA)