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Residents defy Lilongwe City Council demands

The Lilongwe City Council (LCC) is embroiled in a row with residents of Mlembe Village near area 25 in the city after demanding development fees and related costs from them.

LCC is demanding a payment of K586, 000— which includes K500,000 as development fee, K82,000 as Value Added Tax and K4,000 as ground rentals and transaction fees.

In a letter dated July 17, 2017 and addressed to LCC Chief Executive Officer, block leader a Mr Chiutula, who has signed the letter on behalf of residents, claims that Area 25 Sector 4 is an area within Malembe Village and that the plots in the area were procured from residents of the village.

They claim that Malembe Village is still in existence and neither LCC nor Ministry of Land, Physical Planning and Housing have, so far, paid compensation to residents of the village for them to relocate.

“This simply implies that the land in question is not officially under the City Council as is being claimed. The plot owners further wish to bring to your attention that they already purchased these plots at commercial rates. This implies that they already spent huge sums of money to own these plots,” Chiutula says.

The council has so far produced a draft map of Area 25 Sector 4, which is awaiting verification to be finalised. It has also started the process of putting beacons in the area as part of regularising the plots.

“These are the only two notable developments that the council has offered to residents of Area 25 Sector 4. However, this area had no access roads. It took plot owners to make contributions to have these roads opened. To this effect, the council played no role.

“You may further wish to note that most of the residents in this area are now connected to the Escom grid and most of the houses now have electricity. The area also has piped water and it took plot owners, working as individuals or groups, to pay for water connection. The council played no role in all these developments,” the plot owners claim.

The letter says there is no justification for the demand of K586, 000 as development fee by the council, as well as related costs for the plots in the area.

Taking a swipe at the council, the letter adds: “The council has played a passive role in providing services to this area and, therefore, [the] demand of development fee in excess of K100, 000 cannot be justified”.

The plot owners have since requested LCC to finalise plot regularisation to allow residents to start paying city rates.

“This letter is, therefore, being submitted seeking approval of K100, 000 as development fee for Plots in Area 25 Sector 4. It is our hope and expectation that our request will be granted forthwith [for] the Plot Owners to start paying development fee and for your office to finalise the plot regularisation process,” the plot owners say.

Meanwhile, LCC has said land around Malembe Village and Dzenza Secondary School is part of Area 25 Sector 4 and LCC has freehold title from the Malawi Government, according to the council’s publicist, Tamara Chafunya.

The people who settled in the area did so illegally, she said, and without the consent of LCC, “the owners of the land”. She added that most of the plot owners claim to have bought land as gardens, which is not in accordance with the council’s regulations.

LCC decided to regularise the settlements in Area 25 Sector 4 and Area 25 Sector 5. A surveyor was appointed to demarcate all plots where people settled or built houses. This was done with the support of the people themselves and plot numbers were created accordingly, Chafunya said in a written response.

It is a requirement, under section 36 of the Local Government Act, to charge development fees on public land at open market values. The actual charges for most plots as range from K900, 000 to about K1.7 million.

“But these charges are quite high for most members of the public. So, Lilongwe City Council asked government to consider reduction of the charges for the people in Area 25 Sector 4 and Sector 5. Ministerial approval of reduction of charges was granted sometime—end June 2017. On average, the reduction granted so far is about 70 percent of original charges. This is a very welcome consideration by government for its people,” Chafunya indicates.

Asked why the council would be demanding development fees after the plot owners had already undertaken to create roads and bring in other utilities including water and electricity, Chafunya said; “We thank all the people who decided to help the council and government on setting up roads

on our Area 25 Sector 4 and 5. This is very commendable behaviour which other people in townships should emulate.”

LCC has since said it intends to engage all stakeholders, including tenants in Area 25 Sector 4 and Sector 5, to amicably discuss all areas of misunderstanding.

“Our goal is to ensure that all Malawians in the area are given legal papers for the land where they built [houses, among others], which is more important,” Chafunya said.

LCC is embroiled in a number of issues relating to land grabbing, including that of land surrounding Bwaila District Hospital— which is within its jurisdiction and has since been occupied by various traders including foreigners. Other problems also include sewerage blockages and failure to remove garbage from residential areas.

Acting LCC Chief Executive Officer, Charles Makanga, told Malawi News Agency recently that his office is unable to control the situation because illegal developers obtain court injunctions, which stop the council from exercising its mandate to demolish structures on illegal land.

Makanga said his office has since consulted the Attorney General’s office to assist with legal support because LCC does not have readily available lawyers due to financial constraints.

However, newly-appointed Minister of Lands, Anna Kachikho, said LCC should seek the intervention and guidance of her office to resolve the issues.

“They may probably be taking their concerns to the wrong parties. But all of these issues are resolvable. If those developers are not ready to move, then action must be taken. But dialogue is most important,” Kachikho said on Wednesday.

The ministry is the overall owner of land in Malawi.

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