The Ministry of Lands says it is investigating how the Lilongwe District Council awarded 1 000 plots to a Mr Diabi at Likuni in Lilongwe between 2006 and 2007.
In an interview yesterday, Deputy Minister of Lands Abida Mia, said the ministry is currently checking files on the sale before taking any action.
Mia was responding to an enquiry from Weekend Nation following a letter the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has written the ministry requesting it to intervene on the matter.
According to the letter, signed by HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence and national coordinator Luke Tembo, while the sale took place between 2006 and 2007, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development later suspended the decision after observing irregularities transaction.
The land, which was originally a forest reserve and buffer zone for Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), is said to have been sold after an approval based on recommendations of the Development Committee of the Lilongwe District Council.
Reads the letter in part: “However, the Ministry of Local Government suspended the sale on the premise that the sale did not follow the right procedures.
“Secondly, there was no open tender notice where the land was advertised to the public and Malawians to be the first to be considered for allocation.”
The letter indicates that the then Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, George Mkondiwa, wrote the council to reimburse Diabi.
Following Mkondiwa’s letter, the council duly complied and made out a K10 million cheque as part payment of the K20 million sale of land Diabi made.
However, it is alleged that Diabi refused the refund as by then, a lease letter had already been processed with the ministry before the full payment for the purchase was made, a development the HRDC in the letter has described as unusual.
In an interview on Thursday, Trapence said as HRDC, they would like the Ministry of Lands to embark on progressive reforms that can stamp out all challenges Malawians have been facing in acquisition of land.
Said Trapence: “There are so many queries on land issues and we hope the ministry will come up with an action plan with timelines aimed at resolving all the cases.”
When asked if part of the 500 plots were given back to government yesterday, Mia said Diabi approached her this week and told her verbally that after giving back some part of the land in 2009, he remained with about 134 hectares.
Said Mia: “After receiving the letter from HRDC we managed to get hold of him [Diabi] and he brought some documents of the land purchase. He verbally told me that part of the land was given back in 2009.
“So our technocrats are working on checking the legitimacy and legality of the documents. If it happens that the land was dubiously acquired, we will take further action.”
According to Mia, the ministry is setting up a Task Force to look into such matters and enforce the law as part of President Lazarus Chakwera’s zero tolerance on corruption.
Mia indicated that they are currently looking into numerous similar land issues that have been presented to the ministry.
But when contacted on Thursday, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spokesperson Muhlabase Mughogho, asked for more time before responding.
The HRDC has embarked on an initiative to allow whistle blowers, among others, to provide information to State institutions on alleged malpractices.
HRDC has in turn been providing such information to ACB as evidence on alleged malpractices.