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Chaos in land management

DEPLORABLE—Part of Lilongwe ADD piece of land which was encroached

Symon Vuwa Kaunda

As the country awaits concrete answers from Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development on how land belonging to four schools in Lilongwe was sold, Malawi News investigations can reveal that the suspicious plot allocations continue in the country’s cities.

Our investigations have revealed that officials from the ministry and Lilongwe City Council are involved in the exercise taking place in the city and some semi-rural areas.

We have also found that, in Lumbadzi, some land belonging to Airport Development Limited (ADL) has been sold to Asians, leaving poor Malawians helpless as they are being told to leave by the new leaseholders.

Some chiefs and residents in Lumbadzi have revealed that some Malawians of Asian origin are forcing them to vacate their land as it has been sold to them.

Group Village Head Kalamula said, at the rate the land is being sold in the area, people living there will have nowhere to farm and live.

He has since asked President Peter Mutharika to intervene.

“People around M’chepa, Dothi, Chigonthi and Gwireni villages are desperate and living in fear. They are afraid that they will lose their ancestral land. When we try to reason with the people grabbing the land, all they say is that we are illiterate, the laws have changed.

“They say all land is now public and belongs to government,” he said.

But when contacted to comment on the allegation, ADL Company Secretary Gertrude Hiwa said ADL is also responsible for developing the airport and different parcels of land at the airport are designated for different uses such as commercial farming, residential and also airport city project just to mention a few.

“Our mandate as ADL also extends to estate management. We are mandated to transact on land matters here at the airport as long as they are in line with the purposes of a particular designated land here at the airport.

“We are mandated to sublease land from our titled land and this is done following all the required procedures. You may wish to know that a sublease cannot be complete without the involvement and knowledge of Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development,” Hiwa said.

Malawi News has also found that land behind Lilongwe Agriculture Development Division (ADD) workshop, along Lilongwe River, is also being developed illegally.

We also visited Area 17, behind Kamuzu Institute for Sports, where we found people scrambling for land at the place although they are beacons showing that government could be properly distributing the plots but resident around Kawale and Chilinde, among others, are sharing the land willy-nilly.

Our investigations also revealed that government land belonging to Blantyre ADD in Chileka in Blantyre has been encroached on after the land had stayed idle for over 10 years.

The place, which has a non-functioning dip tank for cattle treatment, stopped running over 10 years ago following failure by farmers to manage the place after government entrusted them with the facility.

When we visited the place Thursday, we observed that several houses are being constructed at the premises.

A foundation of one of the new houses being constructed surrounds one of the agriculture officers’ houses.

Some of the community members surrounding the area said all they know is that the land belongs to government but were surprised to see houses being built on the land which is allocated along Chileka Road with some government dilapidated infrastructure on it.

When asked of the facility, Blantyre District Agriculture Development Officer Linda Mphande refused to comment on the new constructions but said farmers failed to sustain the dip tank long time ago, hence the closure.

“There were farmers’ committees that were supposed to be contributing a small amount of money for every head of cattle that uses the dip tank but they were failing to make the contributions,” she said.

She referred the matter of new constructions to Chief Animal Health Livestock Development Officer Edwin Nkhulungo, who admitted that the place is “heavily encroached on”.

“We had problems, even Lands [Ministry] noticed, most farmers stopped rearing livestock because the place is becoming a city. We distributed 18 heads of cattle but only two farmers who are having a total of only six head of cattle remain.

“When we met officers from Lands, we explained to them that we have a problem, our land has been encroached on and Lands [Ministry] promised to come in and come up with development plans,” he said.

Nkhulungo said the place is turning into a city; hence, it would be hard to have the dip tank positioned in town and have livestock flock to it.

However, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Symon Vuwa Kaunda said his ministry is doing everything possible to stop the sale of land.

“I am just three months old on this job and the President has given me powers to bring sanity to this ministry and Malawians should give me more time to get to the bottom of these issues,” Kaunda said.

He said, just some weeks ago, the ministry busted a syndicate which was operating a parallel Lands Office which was selling plots in Lilongwe using fake documents.

Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Director Willy Kambwandira says it is regrettable that the syndicate of illegal land grabbing has turned ugly, with government property not spared nationwide.

“This is a bigger problem created by the government itself, the revelations only expose that petty corruption has not spared any government agency because there is no transparency in allocation of public land and all this clearly shows lack of ethics among public officers,” he said.

He said it is unfortunate that land-grabbing scams denies the youth the future and has since demanded the leadership to institute an independent inquiry into this serious matter.

He, however, said Ministry of Lands responses are not convincing at all.

For the past week, reports have been rife in the country most government-owned land was sold to Malawians of Asian origin and, in some cases, to Malawians affiliated to the Democratic Progressive Party.

Recently, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Joseph Mwandidya when he appeared before Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs confessed that his ministry is infested with corruption, abuse of office and maladministration.

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