The Local Government and Rural Development minister Garry Nkombo has said that politicians in the Patriotic Front government put a blanket over the faces of town planners and told them to be just rubber stamps.
Addressing delegates to the Zambia Institute of Planners (ZIP) 6th national planning conference, Mr Nkombo said that under the PF government planners had no voice and assured that when the UPND government is done with “our five years, this country would have changed for the better”.
He said there is a need for orderliness in the country.
Nkombo urged the planners to be free to tell him if he does anything wrong.
“You being professionals come to me and say this is wrong. I won’t label you PF. You had no voice before, you were cut down into submission just to protect your job. Some people even changed their names. We are determined to be blind with regards your surname,” he said. “One of the challenges we had was political interference. One day I could just wake up and say this is my land. We politicians put a blanket over your face and told you to just be rubber stamps. The politicians even disregarded ZEMA (Zambia Environmental Management Agency) over Forest 27 [in Lusaka East].”
Nkombo urged the planners to think of posterity and not just themselves in discharging their duties.
“They should be futuristic and not distort the environment of the future generation. Put country first before self. Get back to your basics. They call it legacy. What legacy do you want to leave behind? Don’t hide behind politicians when you have other hidden agendas,” he said.
Nkombo also said the PF had taken away the powers of the police.
“Even you the planners had your powers siphoned away by cadres who became planners and even started to distribute plots,” he said.
Nkombo said on the Copperbelt a minister even got land in a golf course. He said Zambians have to realise that the government has changed and that there is an air of invigoration.
He said planners need recognition without which they might be tempted to do wrong things.
“Decentralisation started a long time and it was just on paper, but now it is a baby that is walking. When we are done with our five years, this country would have changed for the better,” said Nkombo.
The Ministry’s director of physical planning Numeral Banda said planners play a very big role in mitigating disasters adding that when such disasters, be it health or environmental, happen the blame goes to them.
ZIP outgoing president Cooper Chibomba said the institute would support the UPND intentions.
He, however, raised a concern that planners feel frustrated when they plan only to have their plans approved three years later.