On 20th August 2022, beginning at 2am, more than 300 houses built on land surrounding Kasompe Airstrip were demolished by officers from Chingola Municipal Council and the Zambia Police Service. The Council stated it had not allocated the land in question and the buildings had been erected without planning permission. Residents appealed to the government to find them alternative land and some of them attempted to resist the demolition, burning tyres and breaking the windows of bulldozers. A video of the demolition shows houses in plots of land with gardens and trees being bulldozed, as displaced people looked on.
Completed houses as well as houses still under construction were demolished. A number of residents retaliated against destruction of their homes, setting fire to two properties – a guesthouse and servants’ quarters – owned by Johnson Kang’ombe, Mayor of Chingola, whom they accused him of selling them plots of land at Kasombe Airstrip. Two suspects thought to be involved in the arson were apprehended and detained. A group of women protested chanting slogans including “The Mayor must go”. One evicted woman said that her aunt whose home was also demolished had collapsed with suspected high blood pressure.
In the aftermath of the demolitions the only help given to displaced residents was food aid and space in a camping site, provided by the Chingola District Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU). On 29th August it was reported that Chingola District Commissioner Raphael Chimupi had said that DMMU had given relief food items to 95 out of 98 families whose houses had been demolished. Chingola Member of Parliament Chipoka Mulenga visited affected residents and promised to help them, saying “I will do everything in my power to help resolve this issue, it is saddening to see a lot of houses demolished, which has left many families in the cold.” Mulenga said the government would provide alternative land to the victims of the demolition of 345 houses, but as of 27th September 2022 some people were still stranded with nowhere to relocate to.
Satellite imagery of an area at the eastern end of the Kasompe Airstrip runway, dated 26th July and 8th September, shows some of the buildings which were destroyed on 20th August 2022. Slide the bar between the images below to compare the area before and after the demolitions.
The land conflict, inustice and human rights violations related to Kasompe Airstrip is documented on EJAtlas, the world’s largest, most comprehensive online database of social conflict around environmental issues. Kasompe Airstrip is located on the eastern outskirts of the city of Chingola, in the Copperbelt Province, a mineral rich area that is the main copper mining region in Zambia. President of the Equity and Economic Party, Chilufya Tayali, said information had surfaced indicating that the demolition of the houses was not driven by the purported illegality of allocation on plots of land but by foreign interests in a mine near Kasompe Airstrip. Aerotropolis-type plans were mentioned in 2019 when the then Mayor of Chingola, Titus Tembo, said Chingola aims to become a city with Kasompe Airstrip being part of this agenda.
The Zambia Air Force (ZAF) denied allegations that it has influenced or pressured Chingola Municipal Council to demolish the houses on Kasompe Airstrip land. ZAF Director Public Relations Lieutenant Colonel Helen Chota said rumours were incorrect and that none of the other ZAF airstrips had been encroached. Yet the day after the demolitions, on 21st August 2022, it was reported that ZAF Commander Lieutenant Colon Barry had alerted citizens to more house demolitions across the country, saying houses and other structures built within 500 metres of airport infrastructure would be demolished and that building civilian structures on or near airports is a threat to national security.