The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has suspended demonstrations it had planned to force government to come up with stringent measures that would deter illegal land sales and corruption.
The decision was arrived at after a meeting HRDC held with Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development officials at Livimbo Primary School yesterday morning before meeting line Minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda at his office in the afternoon.
Stakeholders on the controversial Livimbo land sale engaged in a heated discussion after the ministry officials presented the historical background of the two plots, one of which belongs to businessperson Ahmed Yajub Laheri.
When news of the alleged sale of part of the land broke out last week, HRDC threatened to hold demonstrations against government for lack of commitment to end illegal land sales and corruption in the ministry, among other concerns.
During the meeting attended by education managers and the school’s Parents Teachers Association representatives, ministry officials provided documents and maps that indicated that the school had not been sold but that it had been encroached by about 6.1 metres.
The ministry’s surveyor general Julius Chisi said government is following necessary steps to reclaim the encroached portion.
He said: “Looking at the information that has been presented, we can conclude that no part of the school was sold. But we agree that there is encroachment on the three sides. As a ministry, we will develop a roadmap on how to deal with the issue.”
His statement was supported by deputy commissioner of Lands Muhammad Selemani, who gave a detailed account on how ownership of the land transitioned from government to an individual.
Part of his statement reads: “The application to change ownership was granted on 10 April 1990. Following the granting of permission, a certificate of lease was issued to Laheri in 1998. The registration of the lease was done on 18 June 2008. It was registered as application 674/2008 at Tikwere House in City Centre.”
However, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo, who was accompanied by his deputy Gift Trapence, demanded timelines within which the ministry will take action against the encroachment.
Before meeting Kaunda in the afternoon, the two leaders warned they would organise demonstrations if officials did not report back within five days from yesterday on the decisions government would make to ensure that the lost portion of land is claimed.
The dialogue session ended at the ministry where both sides committed to work together on the matter to end illegal land sales once and for all.
Mtambo said: “This issue of Livimbo is a sign of a rotten system in government. We will embark on serious investigations because this is becoming a problem across the country… But with the information we have been given today, particularly on Livimbo, we are withdrawing the five-day ultimatum and we will not hold demonstrations for this matter.
“Let me also state that as HRDC we will remain a good partner in development with government. But Let us resolve these matters as urgently as possible.”
While admitting that there are some elements of corruption, the minister assured HRDC that he will take up challenge to sort out the mess even if some of it was done during past regimes.
Said Kaunda: “The accusation that the school was sold was very huge. Nobody wanted to listen to us when we said the school was not sold. We believe now we are putting a close to the issue.
“As a new minister, I should say that we will ensure that these issues are resolved. We are going to act because the President [Peter Mutharika] has directed that we should not let anybody get away with corruption.”
During a recent spot-check at the school on Saturday, our sister publication Nation on Sunday found that some warehouses were constructed closer to classrooms at the premises. There are also boundary beacons mounted inside the school premises, purportedly by Laheri and his co-business person Irfan Mohamed Patel.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is currently probing the alleged sale of Livimbo Community Day Secondary School and two parliamentary committee members—Legal Affairs and Education—visited the school last Friday to get to the bottom of the matter before coming up with their stand on the wrangle.
Two weeks ago, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development busted a parallel ‘Lands Office’ in Lilongwe which allegedly transacted and sold plots with counterfeit documents.
Seven suspects were arrested in connection with operations of the dubious office.
Lawyer Ishmael Wadi, who is representing Laheri, said in an interview that he will advise his client on the issue of encroachment to ensure there is compliance with laws governing land.