Lilongwe City Council (LCC) and the Parliamentary Committee on Local Authorities and Rural Development say there is little they can do to control the proliferation of illegal structures in the city because individuals involved have sought courts intervention.
Illegal structures and irregular allocation of plots have culminated in a stand-off between LCC management and councillors, resulting in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development intervening to resolve the disputes.
The committee has since described the situation as out of control and called on the council to act swiftly in resolving the issues.
The illegal structures and irregular plot allocations include a filling station on a piece of land behind Bwaila Hospital, plots shared in areas 46 and 49 when they were allocated to commercial developments, as well as fraudulently allocated plots to businesses on land not meant for commercial activity.
Appearing before the committee in Lilongwe yesterday, LCC chief executive officer (CEO) Moza Zeleza acknowledged that some procedures for the filling station behind Bwaila Hospital were not followed, but the council’s hands are tied because of a pending court case.
He attributed the mix up to a poor working relationships between government departments and ministries dealing in land allocation, among them the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
“The filling station indeed didn’t follow procedures. During allocation, the application did not go through the technical committee. The commissioner had his reservations, but to our surprise the town planning committee went ahead to approve application, and to date we are failing to act because there is an injunction,” said Zeleza.
The council has accused owners of the filling station, which is now operational, of using shortcuts to the extent that it is coperating with an outdated license from the council and has no certificate from the Ministry of Lands for the use of the plot.
Committee chairperson Njoka Chimpeni observed that there are several court injunctions against the council from the said illegal investors on illegal land in the city which, the committee says, if left without action will lead to disaster.
“The council is helpless, it needs to jack up or else we will have a city full of illegal structures and we will not be able to control it. The court injunctions have allowed these businesses to continue with the constructions and the council says it doesn’t have adequate legal personnel to challenge these. It’s really sad,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Local Government, which provides oversight to councils, has also said it cannot act on the challenges at LCC, citing the same reasons gagging the council.
“Apart from provision of guidance and policy direction, the ministry cannot do anything since the issues have the attachment of court injunctions,”the ministry spokesperson Muhlabase Mughogho said.
The council was appearing before the committee to, among others, answer several issues which included a query on who approved the construction of a filling station close to Bwaila Hospital and allocation of plots in undesignated areas.
The council has in the past come under fire for alleged dubious dealings in land allocations.
For instance, early this year LCC Town and Country Planning Committee chairperson Kantondori Nyirenda, failed to convince members of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change why they gave Capital Dairy Industries a licence to construct a milk processing factory in a place that is not designated for such activity. n