- Facilitates sale of govt land to Mchacha
When Minister of Lands Symon Vuwa-Kaunda was pouring cold water on title deeds purporting part of Livimbo school land in Lilongwe as private land last November, he had just approved sale of Forestry Department land in Blantyre to a fellow Cabinet member.
According to a letter, dated October 11 2019, we have seen, Vuwa-Kaunda granted Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works Charles Mchacha permission to buy a piece of land—Plot Number LW1366 at Limbe West (Kanjedza Forest) in Blantyre City.
And a lease document indicates that Mchacha was granted approval to lease 1.171 hectares of leasehold land for 99 years, beginning July 1 2019.
But the procedure the Ministry of Lands used when selling the land to Mchacha has raised eyebrows at the Department of Forestry to which the sold land belonged.
They said the normal procedure requires the Ministry of Lands to first inform the owners of the land—in this case the Department of Forestry—of their intention to sell.
Said a senior official from the Department of Lands: “The Ministry of Lands would have stated reasons for the planned sale. For example, if the land has been idle for a long time or if the owners of the land are failing to pay ground rent. The Ministry of Lands would also have given the Department of Forestry three months’ notice.”
Documents we have seen show that Mchacha—who is also regional governor (South) for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—got the land after applying for 1.2497 hectares of the said land.
The offer letter, with reference number SR/BT/19/94, from the Regional Commissioner of Lands (South) Peter Chikweni, but signed by Vuwa-Kaunda himself, informed Mchacha that the said plot was available for him upon paying development fees of K30.5 million.
Surprisingly, the lease document from “the Minister of the Malawi Government Responsible for Land Matters” which we have seen, granted Mchacha approval to lease 1.171 hectares of leasehold land for 99 years from July 1 2019 before he paid for it.
Mchacha paid the whole amount on October 14 2019—through NBS Bank, Blantyre Service Centre—three days after the land was offered to him.
But while Mchacha made the payment on October 14 2019, the lease document indicates that he was given the approval to lease the land on July 1 2019—three-and-a-half months before he made the payment.
Asked to explain the anomaly, an official from the Department of Lands described it as a “mix up” which might have occurred as the department was “processing several things about the piece of land” at the same time.
According to an official in the Ministry of Lands, the Regional Commissioner is shown as offering the land for sale, was supposed to sign the offer letter, but surprisingly, it is the minister who signed it. for Lands (South) whose office
But Vuwa-Kaunda denied the claim that he signed the offer letter, saying what he signed was a document to allow him [Mchacha] to pay the development charges in instalments.
The department also charged Mchacha additional premium charges: stamp duty at K915 000, K10 000 for preparation fees, K5 000 for certificate of lease, K140 591 for ground rent and K5 000 for registration fees, totalling K1 075 591.
Both Vuwa-Kaunda and Mchacha defended the sale, arguing that the piece of land was not the only one that has been sold to individuals in the area.
He said in a recorded telephone interview: “More than 1 000 plots have been sold and it is the Blantyre Lands Office that is allocating the land. If you want your part, they will give you.
“It is no longer a forest. The forest is completely gone. There are only offices. What is happening is normal. The sale of that land started five years ago.”
But the minister said he could not provide this reporter a list of other people who bought land in the area and referred Weekend Nation to the Blantyre Lands Office which, he said, had the list.
Chikweni has not given us the said list of people who also bought land from Kanjedza Forest despite several reminders since last week, demanding yesterday to first meet this reporter in person.
On his part, Mchacha said there was nothing wrong in acquiring the piece of land from Kanjedza Forest as he followed “all right” procedures.
“I am not the only one who got a piece of land there. Over 600 plots have been sold [at Kanjedza],” he said, sounding angry and irritated.
But two senior officials—one from the Blantyre Forest office and another from Ministry of Lands, disputed Vuwa-Kaunda and Mchacha’s claims, saying the deputy minister is the only one who has been allocated land in Kanjedza Forest.
Forestry Department director Stella Gama said, in an interview on Monday, that her office has since written the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining to clarify on how and why the land was sold and who sold it.
According to Gama, the department had 181 hectares of forest land, but government took part of it for the construction of Soche Technical College, Soche Hill Secondary School and a water reservoir. She said government followed the normal procedure to get the land.
Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining spokesperson Sangwani Phiri and commissioner for Lands Killian Remmie Palika both refused to comment on the matter.
The controversial sale of part of Livimbo School land came to light on November 12 2019 during a parliamentary committee meeting when Lilongwe City South West legislator Nancy Tembo told a Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development delegation that a government secondary school has been sold.
During the meeting, the ministry’s Principal Secretary Joseph Mwandidya admitted there was corruption in the ministry.