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Chaos over land in the Capital

Two weeks after a group of vendors grabbed a privately-owned piece of land in Lilongwe, it has emerged that another group of people is planning to grab some more pieces of land it perceives to be lying idle.

Early this month, a group of local traders grabbed land belonging to an Asian businessman in Malangalanga.

They shared it among themselves and some have already started developing structures on the land, a development that has drawn the condemnation of the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development.

But the development of the structures has not stopped, which has motivated another group to hatch their own plans to occupy other pieces of land which are owned by government and individuals but are lying idle at the moment.

The pieces of land targeted for the grab are two privately-owned pieces with another one belonging to Lilongwe City Council.

“Since government has allowed those people to proceed with construction, we have also identified a piece of land to occupy. We all need places from which we will be conducting our businesses. We will use some of the lands we have already identified,” said one of the people planning to occupy a piece of land along Malangalanga road.

On all the pieces of lands, committees have been set to facilitate the grab.

They are just waiting for a day they will apportion plots to the people who have already been identified.

Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Atupele Muluzi said he is aware of the plans.

“We are aware of the plans. We are aware of the people who are doing that. Government will not sit back and watch. Some of the pieces of land they are targeting are public. We will put in place measures that will not make those plans work,” Muluzi said.

At the moment, construction of structures on the piece of land which has triggered the plans is at an advanced stage.

Hendrix Laher, vice chairperson of people who have occupied the land, said he expects government to allow them finish the work they have started.

“That land was given to Mr. Nazir Nathvani 22 years ago. It cannot just stay idle like that. Currently, 75 shops are being constructed. We are involved in negotiations over the issue. We believe government will handle this issue maturely,” Laher said.

But the message from Muluzi has been strong, hinting that sooner or later the structures will be demolished.

“We have held meetings with the representatives of the concerned vendors of Malangalanga to advise them that what they have done was illegal. We have further informed them that the parcel of land is privately owned by Mr. Nazir Nathvani,” Muluzi said.

He added: “We held another meeting with the owner reminding him that the matter at hand is private between him and concerned vendors. As such, he may wish to take legal action against the vendors.”

He however said the encroachers have been requested to immediately stop any developments on the site and that police officers are on site.

“We have engaged law enforcement agencies such as police to ensure that the rule of law is upheld. We will not hesitate to act,” Muluzi said.

On Thursday the Ministry of Lands also issued a statement warning people against occupying lands illegally.

“The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has noted with great concern the practice of illegal occupation and use of allocated and leased land from this Ministry, local government authorities and Malawi Housing Corporation. This practice is against the law governing land administration and management in the country,” reads the statement from the Ministry’s Principal Secretary Ivy Luhanga.

The Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) allocated the encroached land to Nazir Nathvani in 1994, who was then trading as Kachere Investments.

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