Public service training arm, Staff Development Institute (SDI), which has been fighting to repossess its land from private developers is now on the verge of losing more land to Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC).
MHC alleges it owns some of the land at SDI campus and wants to sell it to private developers as a way of sourcing revenue, according to communication we have seen.
The institute’s acting director Peter Muthete confirmed in an interview this week that MHC already marked out the land to start apportioning plots to private developers.
He said they were surprised with MHC’s “unwarranted move” to disregard a long-standing agreement the two organisations entered into.
Established in 1962 to train the country’s civil service cadres, SDI is managed by the Human Resource Management and Development (HRMD) in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
According to Muthete, the public service training arm asked MHC to construct houses on its land for its staff to rent.
“A conveyance was developed and the corporation built seven houses on our land and we had been paying rentals to them as part of their income generation because we couldn’t afford to build on our own.
“Now these people [MHC] have turned against us and are claiming ownership of the land where the houses were constructed and other remaining pieces of land. This is shocking because the land in question belongs to SDI,” he challenged.
On February 25 2021, the two organisations management met to discuss the issue and MHC reportedly presented to SDI a survey drawing and deed plans for the seven houses it constructed.
However, SDI management asked MHC, a statutory body established in 1964 by an Act of Parliament and wholly owned by government, to delay its plot development exercise in order for the institute to conduct a land search for more clarification.
But in its letter dated March 4 2021 that Weekend Nation has seen, MHC gave SDI up to March 12 2020 to finalise its land search exercise failing which MHC would proceed with its allocation plans.
However, the SDI acting director argued that MHC was contradicting the original arrangement the two established.
“We have reminded them the rationale of the conveyance and for them to build the houses on SDI land. The initial agreement has not changed so our position is that they are contradicting the original arrangement,” he said.
In response to the MHC letter, the institute said it would rather see MHC constructing new houses for use by SDI members of staff as per the original purpose of the conveyance than allocating it to private developers.
MHC public relations officer Ernestina Lunguzi yesterday claimed the corporation conveyed the land and had a deed.
However, she said due to staff housing needs for SDI they were considering the college’s position that the corporation should just construct houses on the said land instead of selling the plots.
“This is a position the corporation is now considering looking at the request and need that the institution has as well as the original plan that it had for the land,” said Lunguzi.
She said they had recently noticed encroachment on the land and decided to demarcate plots on the remaining part.
“The corporation had already demarcated the plots before SDI came with the request, and before any discussions and communication concerning this land started. Moving forward, the corporation is engaging SDI more so that the issues under discussion can be concluded,” said Lunguzi.
Since MHC constructed the seven houses SDI staff occupied them until a few years ago when MHC terminated the contract after SDI allegedly failed to adhere to the tenancy agreement.
However, lMHC wrote all the private tenants last year terminating the contracts to transfer the tenancy back to SDI.
In its letter dated November 20, 2020, MHC gave the private tenants notices of up to May 31 2021 to surrender the houses.
Before MHC terminated the tenancy contract with SDI, the college was paying the rentals for its staff and maintaining the structures.
Ironically, in the letters of termination of contracts, MHC confirms being offered land by SDI to construct house for the college employees.
Reads the letter: “The plan to undertake the project to construct the houses at SDI was implemented to ease pressure of houses at the college and SDI offered the land for the said houses to support the project.”
Deputy Minister of Lands Abida Mia said she would first discuss the matter with MHC before the ministry comes up with a position on the matter.
“We will request MHC to wait a bit with its plan to appreciate their issue. If they have genuine claims, they will be allowed to proceed but if not, they will have to be stopped. The matter needs to be thoroughly investigated if procedures were followed.
“Land matters are very controversial in nature so we need to go into the paperwork and follow the trail. We need to appreciate the contents of their agreement before any action can be taken,” she said.