Dust is refusing to settle on the controversy surrounding the alleged sale of a government secondary school land in Lilongwe with the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) launching a probe.
In an interview yesterday, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba said the graft-busting body has followed up the issue after The Nation published the revelations on Tuesday quoting Lilongwe City South West legislator Nancy Tembo who told the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament that land at Livimbo Community Day Secondary School had been sold to two Malawians of Asian origin.
He said: “ACB officers are pursuing the matter and they have visited the school. To disclose our preliminary findings at this stage would be premature and inappropriate. But just know that we are working on the issue.”
Parliament’s Education Committee is also set to visit the school today to make its assessment, according to committee chairperson Brenix Mfaume Kaise.
He said: “We would like to be very sure if what the PS [Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology-MoEST] has told us here is really what is on the ground.”
The ACB’s probe comes amid the mist surrounding the status of the school with Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Symon Vuwa Kaunda and ministry officials providing conflicting details.
While the minister insisted during a news conference in Lilongwe on Wednesday that the land on which the school lies in Area 2 still belongs to government, well-placed sources in the ministry confided in The Nation that a recently-busted parallel ‘Lands Office’ sold off the land.
The issue of ownership of the Livimbo School land came to light on Tuesday during a meeting between Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament and a Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development delegation when Tembo said the public school was sold.
The revelation stirred a furore on social media networks after The Nation published proceedings from the parliamentary committee meeting where Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development PS Joseph Mwandidya admitted the ministry was infested with rot.
But Vuwa Kaunda said it was “unfortunate” that Tembo made her statement without investigating the issue.
However, well-placed sources in the ministry confided that the busted syndicate is the one believed to have sold the land as its ring leader was a businessperson of Asian origin and the land was sold to Malawians of Asian descent.
The source said it was unfortunate that the minister chose to attack the whistle-blower, Tembo, instead of allowing further investigations into the matter.
Said the source: “If you visit the site, you will notice that the school premises has been encroached by warehouses and a fence. What do you call that?”
During spotchecks at the school, The Nation found that the school premises had some warehouses constructed closer to classrooms. There are also boundary beacons mounted inside the school premises purportedly by the encroachers.
One teacher at the school said in an interview that the land is invaded.
Said the teacher: “That fence you are seeing there is in the school’s compound. Even part of the warehouses.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Tembo said the school committee met her twice to complain about the situation.
She said she was saddened by the situation; hence, her raising the issue with ministry officials during the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament meeting.
MoEST PS Justin Saidi, who visited the school together with Vuwa Kaunda, said it was wrong to say the school was sold at a time government is in the process of increasing the number of schools.
Issues of land scams are not new in Malawi as many people, including Cabinet ministers and high-ranking government officials have previously been duped.
In 2018, Vuwa Kaunda, then serving as one of President Peter Mutharika’s advisers, was duped about K1.4 million in a fake plot allocation by one Felix Mangani who posed as controller of Lands.
Two weeks ago, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development busted a parallel ‘Lands Office’ in Lilongwe which transacted and sold plots with counterfeit documents. Seven suspects were arrested in connection with the dubious ‘Lands Office’.