Plans by a South African firm to invest US $80 million into a palm oil plantation and a refinery plant in Nchelenge district of Luapula Province has stalled following the alleged refusal by area Member of Parliament, Benny Mwila, to give his blessing to the project.
Nchelenge District Council Secretary (CS), Mwilu Lukwesa, said a council meeting held in September this year resolved to grant 250 hectares of land in Mulwe area to the firm called Biomax.
The CS said the council meeting also resolved to recommend to the President through the Ministry of Lands to grant an extra 9,250 hectare land to enable the company start its project.
Mr. Lukwesa told ZANIS that when Biomax went to the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) it was advised to get the blessings of Nchelenge Constituency area Member of Parliament before embarking on the development of the palm oil plantation and the refinery plant.
He said Mr. Mwila, who is also National Democratic Focus (NDF) leader, has allegedly not accepted the resolution made by the council and is demanding that another council meeting be held in which he should be present so that the matter could be discussed again.
“As Council Secretary it is only now that I am learning of the regulation that for any investment project to go on, it has to have the blessings of the MP. May be it is because of the magnitude of the investment,” Mr. Lukwesa said.
Mr. Lukwesa said despite being area Member of Parliament, Mr. Mwila is an ordinary councillor in the Nchelenge District Council and should advise the Local Authority if he notices an error instead of demanding that another meeting be reconvened.
“The council meeting, in which it was decided to give the land to the investors, was held two months ago according to council regulations. I can only reconvene such a meeting after six months,” Mr. Lukwesa said.
Efforts to get a comment from Mr Mwila by press time proved futile as the only response on his cell phone was a recording “the mobile subscriber you have called is either outside the coverage area or have their phone switched off.”
Biomax plans to invest US $80 million in the project and needs about 9500 hectares of land for it to set up a palm oil plantation and a palm oil refinery plant.
The company, which is scheduled to start full operations by 2010, plans to produce bio-diesel which it will sell as 5 per cent biodiesel and 95 per cent petroldiesel.
The Firms also plans to set up an Electricity Generating Power Station, a Palm oil Mill, and Offices, a staff Training Centre, a workshop and an irrigation system which will tap water from Lake Mweru.