By Dickson Jere
For the past three-days, stories have been trending on Horizon School of Lusaka. Rumors and half-baked truths continue to dominate discussions and yet the government – the custodian of the truth on this issue – remains quiet. Why? I have no idea!
Here is the truth about the Horizon School takeover.
The President of the Republic of Zambia Mr. Edgar Lungu has compulsorily acquired Horizon School in “public interest” using powers vested in him by the Lands Acquisition Act. In order to exercise this power, the President only has to demonstrate that it is in “public interest” to do so – and the owners will eventually be compensated by the government as per law. They also have a right to challenge the President in the High Court for Zambia if they think the power has been exercised wrongly.
The next question is what prompted the President to takeover Horizon School.
The rumors and innuendos that the land has been acquired in order to facilitate a shopping mall is not true – at least from what I know. The acquisition has been made following a protracted international battle between the Turkish government and the allies of former Turkish President who is connected to the Fethullah Gulen Organisation. In short, the Turkish government is alleging that the owners of Horizon Schools all over the world are actively involved in terrorism – the accusation which is denied of course.
Let’s move to the next step.
The Turkish government, through its Maarif Foundation, has opted to take over all these Horizon Schools all over the world and kick out the alleged “terrorists”. Some governments have signed Bilateral Agreements with the Turkish government to take over the schools and hand them to the Turkish Maarif Foundation. The government of Chad recently acquired the same schools and handed them over to the Turkish government to run them. This is happening in so many countries.
What will happen to Horizon School in Zambia?
What I know is that the Maarif Foundation has asked to be allowed to continue running the school. Whether government will accept this offer or not, it is for the Ministers to explain. But what is true is that the school is not closing and the staff will be maintained either through the Ministry of Education or indeed the Turkish government. Surely government can explain this obvious position!
Will they build the shopping mall?
The answer is NO! There is no shopping mall coming to replace the school. And the school is also not going to close down. That is what I know talking to government and Turkish officials. So why is government not explaining this simple roadmap to stakeholders? School Board chairman Leslie Mbula is right to speculate in the absence of information!
Lastly, the President is being accused of having a personal interest in the matter. On this one, I can defend him. I do not think he has any personal interest given the fact that this an ongoing international battle. This is more of a foreign policy issue in the country. It is an international battle that has sadly entered our jurisdiction and those in power have the responsibility to deal with it – rightly or wrongly!
I hope there will be a detailed statement from the government to explain what this debacle is all about. The longer it takes for the government to respond, the more the people will believe the rumours. In a digital world, a quick response is the best!