The Greenbelt Authority (GBA) has paid K360 million compensation to 561 households who were relocated to pave the way for Salima Sugar Factory.
GBA acting chief executive officer Amon Mluwira said the move will facilitate the expansion of irrigable land for sugar cane.
He said when the GBA rolled out the project in 2015, they found people living in the area; hence, they needed to compensate them before relocating to a new place.
Said Mluwira: “The compensation has taken long, but now I am happy that government has released these funds to compensate the people.
“The funds will improve the livelihoods of people to settle on a new place that we have identified for them.”
He said the delay to compensate the people resulted in them refusing to relocate to a new area reserved for them.
Mluwira said this derailed the factory’s plans to expand the sugar cane production area.
He said the firm obtained obtained loans from commercial banks five years for its expansion plans
The firm also acquired modern irrigation infrastructure, but could not go ahead with its plans as people were not willing to relocate.
He said the 300 hectares will be used for the development of urban commercial centre where modern facilities such as upmarket shops, banks and modern schools, among others, will be built.
“We are expecting to commence the project in March 2022 budgeted at K1.5 billion. What we have done is to allocate land to willing Malawians to invest in the facilities,” said Mluwira.
He said government is committed to pay compensation to all the people relocated before the year ends as they have K200 million remaining for the cause.
One of the beneficiaries, Kamuikeni Veresoni at Chikhwawa from Traditional Authority Mwanza, in Salima, said despite being given compensated, they will not have enough time to relocate and build houses as the rainy season is fast approaching.
In his reaction, Senior Chief Khombedza advised the people to use the money responsibly.
He urged GBA to ensure that the remaining people are compensated so that development in the area should start to create jobs for people in the area.
The $90 million (about K73 billion) Salima Sugar Factory, is a public private partnership between Indian investors, owning 60 percent and Malawi Government with 40 percent stake and operates under GBA.
The company has 3 500 employees, with 200 on permanent employment while the rest are seasonal workers