Zambian Catholic Bishop Saddened by Demolitions That Left Hundreds of Households Homeless

Bishop Benjamin Phiri of Zambia's Ndola Diocese. Credit: I am Catholic Zambia/Facebook

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ndola in Zambia has expressed deep frustration over a recent demolition of hundreds of houses that allegedly occupied an airstrip in Chingola, a city served by the Diocese.

In his message published on Facebook on Tuesday, August 30, Bishop Benjamin Phiri describes the August 20 demolition of over 300 housing structures that were built on Kasompe Airstrip land in Chingola as “a very sad event”, which he blames on “bad decisions by various stakeholders” in the country’s construction sector.

“I was particularly saddened recently when I heard about what happened in Kasompe, Chingola.  I was greatly saddened. I did not apportion blame but it is indeed a very sad event,” Bishop Phiri says.

He adds, “It (demolition) is a collection of a series of bad decisions by various stakeholders. The first bad decision was by whoever apportioned land illegally, that was the first bad decision.”

“The second bad decision was for those people who went to buy that land without the papers. That was also a bad decision,” the Zambian Bishop further says, adding, “The third and concluding bad decision was by those who are responsible in the local authority to decide to erase more than 300 houses at the same time.”


Officers from the Chingola Municipal Council and Zambia Police Service reportedly started the operation around 02 hours on the morning of August 20, demolishing houses that are under construction and those that are complete.

Zambian authorities said the Council’s decision to demolish the illegal structures was meant to protect the Airstrip, which is a national asset and key to the economy of Chingola.

Affected residents were said to have been given a warning before the demolition came into effect.

In his message published August 30, Bishop Phiri said that the Zambian authorities should have consulted further before the destruction.

“We should have sat down as stakeholders to find the best way forward,” the Zambian Bishop says, and adds, “My challenge to you, the women and I know that some of the people in the local government are women; my challenge is when these illegal structures are being put up where are you?”

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The Local Ordinary of Ndola criticizes the Zambian government for waiting until locals have bought and developed prohibited land before they come in and demolish people’s properties.

“You seem to wake up only when the structure has been finished. You should be able to observe when it is starting and that is what you are paid for. That is your job. For you to wake up only when people have built up and have lived there for many years then that is when you realize that actually they have built in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Bishop Phiri says.

He adds, “I think that if it was up to me, I would start by punishing those for failing to do their work. For an illegality to happen it is because somebody did not do their work his or her somewhere and that is very sad. We hope that the Government is going to do everything possible to ensure that justice is done.”

He further castigates the authorities in the country for creating problems and later coming in to try and solve them, and inconveniencing locals while at it. He says, “Jumping on board with the different organs of government to solve a problem, which you have created yourself is not necessarily a merit; however, justice can still be done.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.