Deputy Minister of Lands Abida Mia has settled the contentious public land issue in Mpemba, Blantyre, which was reported to have been dubiously acquired by some government officers and other private developers for residential purposes.
The land is located close to Staff Development Institute (SDI) and was previously under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture.
However, some traditional leaders and community members got alarmed last year when they noted the private developers putting up residential property .
The land was initially designated for the construction of Mpemba Community Hospital to replace Mpemba Health Centre.
The disgruntled citizens took the matter to various offices, including Ministry of Lands for explanation, forcing the deputy minister to launch an investigation into the issue.
Mia told Weekend Nation in an interview, the investigations revealed there was no suspicious dealing in disposing of the said land because due processes were followed.
She said: “When I received reports about the piece of land I discussed with the minister who instructed me to promptly act and get to the bottom of the issue about how land meant for a public hospital was procured by private individuals.”
The deputy minister explained that in 2018, upon advice from the district health office (DHO), the Blantyre District Commissioner’s office requested Ministry of Agriculture to swap the said land with the one closer to where the health centre is situated.
“Two hectares of land was offered next to the health centre and the land that was initially meant for the community hospital was subdivided and distributed to 28 private developers, some of whom have developed their plots while others are yet to start,” she said.
Just across the health centre, there is four hectares which Mia said they have sked the Blantyre DC’s office to offer to the hospital in case “there will be need for further extension.”
“So for us, as the ministry, the swapping made a lot of sense and personally I am satisfied with the entire deal.
“It doesn’t make sense to have one hospital but located in different areas. I know many people were upset with the development but there was nothing cynical about the transaction,” she noted.
Some chiefs and community members around the area have also been complaining of not benefitting from the public land deals going on in the area.
But responding to the issue, Mia said she had asked the DC’s office to ensure the remaining 30 hectares is subdivided and justly allocated to people.
“Currently, the Ministry of Lands is working on approvals for the land.
I will personally follow up on who benefits from this piece of land and witness that it’s fairly and equitably distributed so that those people without land parcels also benefit,” she stated.
Blantyre District Council chairperson Mussa Chikwakwa, who is also ward councilor for the area, said he was happy the ministry had cleared the matter.
He said no shortcut was done in disposing of the land because the council, through the service committee, proposed the transaction following an advice from the DHO before a full council passed a resolution to swap the two pieces of land.
“As a council, we thought it made sense that the hospital structures should stand next to each other and not far apart. That was why the council proceeded with the transaction. The senior chief was consulted before any procedure was conducted,” said Chikwakwa, adding the council would also be distributing more than 300 plots around the area to successful applicants.
Mpemba, which is one of the fastest growing places in Blantyre, has been engrossed in land disputes for sometime.
In August last year, Weekend Nation also published a story about suspicious acquisition of part of the land belonging to a private developer.
The land in question was reserved for construction of additional institutional houses and expansion of the college but the private developer had demarcated plots and had been selling to individuals.
According to letters and other documents Weekend Nation saw, the freehold land was allocated to SDI in January 2008 by the liquidated Malawi Development Corporation Limited, who was then managing the land.