Disgruntled vendors of motor vehicle spare parts in Lilongwe have encroached on a piece of land belonging to Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC), but leased to a foreign investor.
The vendors said they have been compelled to take the action following failure by Lilongwe City Council (LCC) and the central government to address challenges local entrepreneurs are facing to get land using legal and laid down procedures.
Mavuto Ndingo, chairperson of the concerned vendors, said on Sunday for years they have been pleading with LCC and government to allocate them land where they would be selling their wares.
He alleged that traditional leaders and city councils nationwide tend to treat local entrepreneurs as foreigners by, among other things, denying them access to business plots/spaces.
Said Ndingo: “It has been 51 years since independence yet we cannot claim to be truly independent nor can we claim that we own this country. We live as if we are in a foreign land in our own country.”
He said the vendors were ready to be taken to court for encroachment.
The piece of land in question has been shared among 65 entrepreneurs.
But LCC public relations officer Tamara Chafunya dismissed allegations that the council favours foreign nationals when allocating business plots.
She said business plots are allocated according to laid down procedures, which she emphasised were not formulated to disadvantage anyone let alone a local entrepreneur.
Said Chafunya: “Of course, the land under dispute belongs to Malawi Housing Corporation [MHC]. So, we [LCC] cannot competently comment on that. However, our major worry is that the vendors are developing the land without submitting to us their development plans.”
She said the council would be compelled to invoke the by-laws if the structures being constructed do not meet the standards.
While chiding the vendors for taking the law into their own hands, Boniface Dulani, a social commentator based at Chancellor College (Chanco) of the University of Malawi, said yesterday he was not surprised with the turn of events.
He observed that both the country’s land acquisition system and the justice architecture do not work to the advantage of locals.
Said Dulani: “Chiefs and councils are pegging their plots/land at exorbitant prices, making it practically impossible for a Malawian to acquire. Usually, they are selling the plots at prices Malawians cannot outbid foreign investors.
“And unless this trend stops, we shall continue witnessing this mutiny from disgruntled local investors like that one in Lilongwe.”
He asked government and city councils to put in place measures that would favour local entrepreneurs when allocating land for development.
From a chiefs’ perspective, Traditional Authority (T/A) Maganga of Salima observed that a majority of the local entrepreneurs do not want to invest in real estate property “as shown by their unwillingness to buy land”.
The chief said until recently, only businesspersons of Asian descent and Europeans sought land for development in his area.
MHC public relations officer Ernestina Yobe could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Construction of the vendors’ stalls was in progress at the site as we went to press. n