By Kalobwe Bwalya
GOVERNMENT is in the dark about the resumption of works at the controversial Kalundu Mall by Chinese constructors after the project was halted because of revelations that the company had not followed the legal channels nor obtained necessary licenses for the same.
Both Lusaka minister, Japhen Mwakalombe and Water, Sanitation and Environment Development counterpart, Lloyd Kaziya are unaware of the resumption of construction as they have not been furnished with information to that effect.
Two months ago, construction works were halted following complaints from residents about the site of the projects as well lack of approval from the Zambia Environmental Authority (ZEMA) and the National Council for Construction (NCC).
The two ministers told the Daily Nation in separate interviews that they had neither received verbal or written confirmation authorizing the resumption of construction of the Kalundu Mall, a project objected to by residents of the surrounding communities.
Mr Kaziya said he had not be given any report to indicate that ZEMA had approved the project retrospectively.
Mr Mwakalombe also expressed surprise, as he had neither received a verbal or written briefing about any recommendation from any of the authorities tasked to look into the matter.
But a Chinese national representing Shumeite Investments Eric Shaun said they had written to ZEMA, Ministry of Local Government and Lusaka provincial office seeking permission to continue with construction up to Wednesday.
Mr Shaun said only ZEMA replied to their request, but when asked to produce the copy of a letter from ZEMA he failed to do so.
Efforts to contact ZEMA failed because its acting corporate Affairs Manager Alex Museshyo blocked the reporter’s cell for constantly querying about the issue.
Meanwhile, Kalundu residents have expressed shock that ZEMA has failed to produce a letter permitting the contractor to go back on site despite the case still active in court.
The residents have also questioned why ZEMA did not inform them as interested parties instead of being confronted with Shumetie constructing day and night in the name of securing materials.
They residents have vowed to now take on ZEMA.
The residents have since demanded for a letter from ZEMA before they take law into their own hands because what was happening was against the law.
A spot check at the site by the Daily Nation yesterday, found Chinese construction workers had resumed work in full force.
Resident’s spokesperson Mwinga Sichula said the residents will not sit idle and watch some disgruntled people who do not mean well to continue abrogating the law.
Ms Sichula wondered why ZEMA failed to send inspectors to monitor what was happening on the ground, instead the building has been going up since last week on Friday and if everything was above board, a notice to the residents would have been circulated.
“They are working day and night and the building going up right in front of our eyes. There are pouring concrete into slabs that were breaking down because of rains and this confirms our fears how unsafe is the building considering that it will be five storey.
“ I woke up in the evening to get a video and pictures after noise of machines persisted, but the moment they saw me they switched off the lights,” said Ms Sichula.
National Council for Construction (NCC) halted the project because the contractor did not meet the benchmarks needed before the project could take off and among other irregularities, Shumeite was not registered with the NCC.
This is a matter in which Kalundu residents have opposed plans to construct a shopping mall by a Chinese firm (Shumeite Investments Limited) citing environmental and social security concerns among other contentious issues.