Chief Kabamba of the Lala people in Serenje District, Central Province, expressed shock that an investor was given a mining license covering three chiefdoms without consulting traditional leaders. The traditional leader refused to sign a Consent Letter for the investor, citing a violation of the Chiefs’ Authority Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act.
“This came as a surprise to me and my fellow chiefs,” Chief Kabamba said. “We were not consulted before the mining license was issued. We are disappointed that the investor did not follow the due process, and we cannot allow such a thing to happen in our chiefdoms.”
He added that traditional leaders are interested in working with investors to develop the country but must be consulted to avoid human rights abuses, especially the displacement of vulnerable people. “We are not against mining or investment, but we want to ensure that our people are not negatively impacted,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Chibale, the Central Province Council of Chiefs Chairperson, expressed surprise that the license was issued without his knowledge. He noted that traditional leaders in the Central Province recently resolved that the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development should be reformed to allow for participation of chiefs in providing consent before issuing licenses.
“We have been advocating for the involvement of traditional leaders in the decision-making process, especially when it comes to land and natural resources,” Chief Chibale said. “We want to ensure that our people benefit from any investment in our chiefdoms.”
He added that traditional leaders in the Central Province resolved that all chiefdoms should generate Chiefdom Development Trusts or foundations, whose responsibilities should include the allocation of land and resource mobilization in the chiefdoms. “We want to be part of the development process, and we believe that by establishing Chiefdom Development Trusts, we can effectively manage resources and ensure that our people benefit from any investment in our chiefdoms,” he said.
The Chiefs urged the government to always engage them in the development agenda. “We are the custodians of our land and natural resources, and it is important that the government consults us before making any decision that affects our people,” Chief Kabamba said.
CEJ Board Member Boniface Mumba stated that his organization appreciates the role of chiefs in environmental sustainability. “Traditional leaders play a critical role in environmental management, and we must ensure that they are involved in the decision-making process,” he said.
The issuance of a mining license without consulting traditional leaders highlights the importance of effective communication and consultation with all stakeholders in the development process. It is essential to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the potential impacts of any project and that their concerns are adequately addressed. The government must work with traditional leaders and other stakeholders to ensure that investment in the mining sector is sustainable and benefits all Zambians.