Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) tenants are set to obtain a court injunction against raising their house rentals by an average of 48 percent effective 1st July.
The tenants made the decision yesterday during a meeting at Chitawira Primary School ground in Blantyre to strategise on the way forward.
During the meeting, MHC tenants spokesperson Goodnews Mphande said they would mobilise themselves and obtain an injunction by Wednesday this week through a lawyer who was yet to be identified as of yesterday.
He said if the rental increments were among some of the reforms taking place within the corporation, then they are not to the benefit of the citizenry.
Said Mphande: “In the past, they [MHC] were increasing the rentals gradually and we were not protesting. But now, it is just too much. We will make sure that we obtain an injunction as soon as possible while we will be mapping the way forward. The rents have been adjusted with very wide margins.”
His sentiments were echoed by national chairperson of MHC Tenants Association, Melvin Kaumphawi, who said MHC was only renovating new houses, leaving out the old ones to give the impression that they are making progress in their renovations.
He said MHC should have considered the cost of living and prevailing minimum wage before coming up with the increments as most of the tenants will not be able to pay their rentals; hence, risking eviction.
One of the tenants, Vera Mwazimva, who said she has been living in her bed-seater since 1975 when she was paying K8.70, said her house rental has been increased from K9 000 to K19 000 per month.
She said: “We were expecting that maybe we will be considered to buy the houses after staying in them for quite a long time. Surely, I will be evicted because I get less in a month.”
The tenants said when MHC, whose vision is to be A Leading Provider of Decent and Affordable Housing for Malawi, raised its rentals in 2015 they did not protest as they found the margins to be manageable.
But at a news conference in Blantyre on Friday, MHC chief executive officer Eunice Napolo justified the increments, saying it was done with the approval of government.
She said the adjustments have been made differently, ranging from an average of 48 percent based on class and location of the houses.
Napolo argued that previously, the revenue the corporation accumulated from its houses was not sufficient to maintain the houses; hence, the increment was justifiable.
But the tenants, who say they expected the corporation to be adjusting the rentals gradually as had been the case in the past, argue that they were not consulted on the increments hence they find it so appalling.
In an interview last Wednesday, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito, while backing MHC, said the rental adjustment should have been gradual.
He said: “This is where I have a problem myself because when you look at a house where you are collecting rentals at K11 000 and for you to maintain a house at K7 000, then it doesn’t become economical at all. That is why I am saying it is acceptable for them, but for them to do that one time is not right.”
During yesterday’s meeting, the tenants—who said they are mobilising their colleagues nationwide—said they also plan to write Vice-President Saulosi Chilima, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development AtupeleMuluzi, the Parliamentary Committee on Lands and Natural Resources chairperson WelaniChilenga and MHC to express their grievances.
They chanted Zonse zimene za Kamuzu Banda (everything belongs to founding president the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda).
MHC is a statutory body established in 1964 by an Act of Parliament and is wholly owned by the Malawi Government. The corporation draws its mandate from the Malawi Housing Corporation Act of 1964 (Chapter 32.02 of the Laws of Malawi) which empowers it to construct houses, develop plots and maintain existing houses and plots.
It is also within the corporation’s mandate to put up buildings other than dwelling houses and also to dispose of any structure which it has either built or procured.