IT is no secret that the conduct of most council officials countrywide leaves much to be desired.
Members of the public have in many cases complained that any visit to the council office has never been a smooth process and one is assured of leaving the premises frustrated due to lost documents, illegal or double allocation of plots or simply the official dealing with the record not being available in the office.
It is one excuse to another, and obviously, these are recipes for illegality.
We recall, four years ago, Lands Minister Jean Kapata issued a directive in which she indefinitely suspended the Ndola and Kabwe councils as land administration agents, for wrongful conduct.
This was as a result of the high prevalence of illegality and lawlessness in land allocation and acquisition disregarding guidelines and laid-down procedures in land administration by the two councils.
The Ministry of Lands, greatly concerned with the manner some local authorities in the country were administering land, threatened to extend a similar action to other councils that failed to adhere to stipulated guidelines and procedures.
Today, Ms Kapata's counterpart, Local Government Minister Charles Banda has issued a similar directive instructing all councils in Zambia to stop selling or leasing any of their properties with immediate effect.
The directive follows reports of possible reckless sale or lease of
land, open spaces and movable assets by councils countrywide.
This means that all councils will not be allowed to sell or lease land, buildings, machinery and equipment.
It is obvious that only a person with privileged information on the position of the land, building equipment and open spaces will attempt to make the sell or lease. And in such instances, it is the same officials that are aware of the availability of particular land or building.
Mr Banda further ordered all local authorities to reverse any sale or lease of property that was done in the last three months, starting from January 14, this year.
In addition, all council resolutions which may have been made in the last three months to allow for such sale or lease are hereby nullified.
Following the minister's directives, any individual or institution that purchased or leased property from any council in Zambia from January 14, to date should be refunded.
This entails that because of the officials' misconduct, innocent individuals will have to be inconvenienced too.
We, therefore, feel that apart from directives or suspensions, stiffer punishment should be meted on officials found wanting in disregarding guidelines and laid-down procedures in councils.