Lilongwe City councillors have agreed to share among themselves a two-hectare piece of land earmarked for community facilities in the city’s Area 49.
The move, which flouts land allocation procedures according to city council officials, was made by the council’s plot allocation sub-committee of the development committee four weeks ago.
The resolution, which awaits the approval of the full council, could turn the land, set aside for a community ground and centre, into residential plots for the 27 councillors.
According to a report presented to a full council meeting on April 14 this year, the sub-committee resolved to “speed up provision of plots to councillors” by giving them the land despite objections from other members of the committee.
“Some members were of the view that the community land should not be turned into plots as such facilities are required in the communities,” notes part of the report.
The decision comes at a time the council has stopped receiving applications for commercial and residential plots because it has no land. There are currently 5 000 applicants on the waiting list, according to the council’s records.
Spokesperson for the council, Tamara Chafunya, confirmed the development in an interview, but said the sub-committee’s decision is subject to scrutiny by a full council meeting.
She, however, noted that the committee’s decision might carry the day owing to the numbers of councillors in the council.
“They asked for land which was not meant for them, but there are more independent meetings which might decide on the issue.
“Of course, they are many and they might win, but the councillors will need to justify why the council should cancel its plans and give them this land for their personal usage,” she said.
The committee meeting was attended by five councillors including the mayor and his deputy and two ex-officio members.
Deputy mayor of Lilongwe City Council Kwame Bandawe refused to comment on the matter, but chairperson of the development committee, Julius January, said the councillors are not bulldozing their way onto the land.
He said the council will decide on the matter as it pleases.
“We applied for land three months ago… depending on the council’s decision we might or might not be given the land. We are not abusing any powers. The decision to be given that piece of land was a mere suggestion and it has not even gone any further because we are following the normal process,” he said.
But a council official who opted for anonymity said there was nothing normal about the procedure the councillors are following.
“Councillors are supposed to apply for land like any other city resident and not use their positions to ask or make such decisions about making public land private…” said the official.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Muhlabase Mughogho, said the ministry could not competently comment on the issue as land operational issues are handled by the council.
“I am not aware of that development, but it is outside the jurisdiction of the ministry, those issues can only be dealt by the council,” she said.