The year 2019 courted a lot of controversy in as far as management, distribution and allocation of land is concerned.
In the year, we learnt of land being dubiously sold and later a parallel ‘lands office’ operating within the precincts of Capital Hill busted.
It all began in October with the discovery of a parallel ‘lands office’ where seven people were arrested for allegedly selling and transacting land business worth as much as K300 million.
However, the seven who are believed to be sacred cows because of “connections”, had to be charged a month later on their crime as it is believed that they were being protected.
Admission of rot by ministry
Three weeks after the discovery of the parallel lands office, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Joseph Mwandidya admitted that his ministry was rotten as there was too much corruption, abuse of office and maladministration taking place.
He told Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs that there was nothing to hide about the rotten behaviour happening and even challenged the legislators that some of the plots they own could have been brought dubiously.
Mwandidya apologised to the committee for what was happening in his ministry.
‘Sale’ of public school
The year cannot go without mentioning the infamous Livimbo school sale saga. The revelation by Lilongwe City South West legislaltor Nancy Tembo that two Malawians of Asian origin pressured the school to demolish a school block as they wanted to develop the land, ended with the warehouses being demolished.
But the two have taken the issue to court. It seems it will be a long way before the issue concludes.
Mwandidya told a joint parliamentary committee instituted to investigate dubious plot allocations, including the ‘sale’ of Livimbo school.
In his submission to the committee, he said there is a problem in government where the institutions are just given maps and jurisdiction that they own a place without documentation.
Said Mwandidya: “There is a big problem, most schools, and government institutions don’t have papers That is why encroachment is rampant. We need to strategise and make sure that we give all the institutions the papers that they need.”
This revelation attempted to answer many questions as to why officials from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development had to sell the land willy-nilly.
They knew the missing link and they took advantage of it; hence, selling land to whoever they wanted.
The sale of public land has not spared hospitals such as Ntchisi District Hospital, Bwaila Hospital and Zomba Central Hospital. There is also a possibility of sale of land at Lilongwe Police C Company ground, Police Mess in Area 3, part of Zomba Mountain and Limbe forest.
As it stands now, Malawians are yet to witness the trial of the arrested seven and the big fish caught in the mess.
The country also awaits the trial of former Lilongwe City mayor Desmond Bikoko, who was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for alleged dubious plot allocation.
It appears the Livimbo primary and secondary school saga is only a tip of the iceberg, as land-snatching scandal appears to have been ‘preying’ on some school premises across Malawi.
There are more illegal structures in Lilongwe City, including questionable structures such as city centre buildin between Lilongwe Civic Office and Puma Service Station, a piece of land given to Central Poultry along the road to Kamuzu Internatonal Airport and an imposing structure on the Presidential Way where a previous one was demolished purportedly on security concerns.
When he appeared before the joint Committee of Parliament on Land Inquiry, Lilongwe City Council chief executive officer John Chome suggested a full land audit on plot allocations in the country, especially in Lilongwe City where he said people are developing and having plots anyhow.
He also said he wondered why some people develop substandard buildings contrary to city plans and when approached they produce official documents from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
As Chome suggests, the ministry needs to set timelines on the land audit and make the results known to the public, reclaim land from those who bought it dubiously, follow proper city planning and decentralise management of land.