Blantyre City Council (BCC) has written Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to relocate Chichiri Prison to either Chigumula or Soche township in the city to allow investors to develop the facility’s current site.
In an interview on Friday, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development spokesperson Charles Vintulla said his ministry received a proposal from BCC titled Land Management Report which tackles various issues, including the prison’s relocation.
He said the report tackles various issues relating to land administration within the city’s peripherals.
Said Vintulla: “Recommendation 3.8 [the eighth and last recommendation] in the report from BCC was for ‘government to consider relocating Chichiri Prison to Chigumula or Soche so that the idle land surrounded by the Prison, the High Court, Chichiri Shopping Centre and MTL offices should be allocated to investors which can help the Chichiri commercial zone to grow further’.”
Vintulla said the report made several recommendations for government’s consideration but it did not detail the development plans for any of the recommendations.
He said government is considering the recommendations as there are several players involved and aspects to be considered.
According to sources at BCC, if the council authorises the relocation of the prison, it will enable the land on which the prison currently stands, behind Chichiri Shopping Centre, to be part of the bustling development projects in the area, turning it into Chichiri Central Business District.
But when contacted, BCC chief executive officer Alfred Chanza declined to comment on the matter, saying the issue is sensitive as it borders on the country’s security.
He said: “This is a security issue and it is very sensitive. I cannot comment further on this matter.”
In an interview yesterday, secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security Sam Madula expressed ignorance on the matter and laughed off BCC’s proposal to relocate the prison.
He said: “We are not aware of those plans, technically they have not even approached us. We are building new cell blocks at the prison. We cannot accept the idea because that should come from us and not them. They might be the owners of the city but that prison will be there.
“Who is going to build the new prison? They must first engage the ministry and understand our plans and then we agree who is going to finance the new prison.”
In 2012, then member of Parliament for Blantyre City West Constituency Thom Tarsizio Gowelo also asked authorities to relocate the prison to Blantyre Rural to allow other developments at the current location.
He said the prison needed to be moved away from Chichiri because times had changed and the area was accommodating better developmental projects which must not be close to the prison.
Chichiri Prison has a capacity of 800 but it currently has over 2 000 inmates.