Lilongwe City Council (LCC) has demolished a warehouse which borders Livimbo School in Lilongwe’s Area 2 in what it termed an on-going exercise targeting widespread “illegal construction”.
Commissioner for physical planning, in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Felix Tukula told Nation on Sunday that the new Physical Planning Act empowers councils to demolish any illegal construction; hence, more buildings in the capital city are likely to be affected.
Tukula said construction against planning rules has been rampant due to gaps in the previous law which empowered non-technical people such as councillors to make important decisions on physical planning matters and “most of them did so not for the benefit of the public, but personal interest”.
At around 7am yesterday, LCC officials accompanied by armed police officers demolished a warehouse in Area 2 which borders Livimbo Community Day Secondary School, that was in the news over encroachment issues.
Our visit to Livimbo—a spot that has now become popular in the news—yesterday between 9am and 11am, we witnessed scenes of panic with warehouse tenants hurriedly packing their goods in trucks amid an intimidating presence of armed police officers.
Trucks moving goods from the demolished building to elsewhere were all over the place as well as men who had found some piece-work to load goods.
The warehouse’s two tenants Hong Yuan Trading and Longfa were among those that hurriedly transferred their goods to other places before the expiry of a two-hour ultimatum given by LLC.
By around 10 am, the two-hour deadline had elapsed though most of the packing of the goods was still underway.
Hong Yuan Trading warehouse manager Madalitso Chinomba said: “The demolition team surprised us and came here soon after 7am today and started levelling some empty warehouses. When it was discovered that some of the warehouses had container-loads of goods, they gave us two hours to clear [remove] the goods.
“They said they will resume the demolition around lunch hour. We are transferring the goods to somewhere at Njewa [on the outskirts of Lilongwe],” he added.
LLC chief executive officer John Chome said the demolition was the last resort after the developer failed to comply with notices given to him.
Chome said the warehouse was constructed without the approval of the planning authority in the city. He said the warehouse, according to law, is supposed to be constructed in an industrial site and not commercial as was the case.
“The demolition has nothing to do with Livimbo School. This is a planning issue. We gave the developer notices and demolition is the last resort. The construction was not approved by the council and the warehouse is in a commercial area and not industrial as provided for in the law,” he said.
Chome said on the school encroachment issue, they council awaits a definitive direction from the Surveyor General on the way forward.
Ahmed, who is at centre of an unresolved conflict regarding encroachment into Livimbo School, is one of the owners of the demolished warehouses.
In an earlier interview, his lawyer Ishmael Wadi said he was aware of notices from LLC to demolish the building, but they had filed an appeal against such a decision.
“We are moving step by step. We are amending our notice of appeal to the planning board and after the hearing that is when we will decide the way forward,” he said.
Tukula indicated that there are more structures that were built without following planning requirements and will be targeted as the new law gives the authority more mandate.