The Ministry of Lands and Lilongwe City Council are at loggerheads over land allocated to a private investor for an international bus terminal, which the council claims it had also earmarked for the same project.
The ministry says a private investor, David Bonongwe, presented a convincing business concept, claiming the council never expressed interest in writing over the land located in Area 46 along the City West Bypass Road whereas the council says it applied last November.
With a lot of fanfare, during last year’s Malawi Investment Forum, Lilongwe City Council (LCC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Khato Civils for construction of a multipurpose International and Intercity Bus Terminal to be located in Area 46 along the City West Bypass Road.
At the forum, LCC announced that the terminal, to be built by Khato Civils, according to city council designs, would also have banks, shops, lodges and shopping mall within the same campus.
But almost a year now, the much-touted project is nowhere near starting as ownership of the land still remains uncertain.
In an interview with Nation on Sunday Commissioner for Lands Felix Mangani confirmed that the land was allocated to Bonongwe, who owns Moni International Coach Terminal and Trade Centre, following an application and submission of a ‘satisfactory’ project concept.
“When the plot allocation committee looked at his proposal, they were convinced that he should be given the land. We thought his concept was a good one because he explained in detail what kind of an international bus depot he intends to put up and we thought this was a welcome development because it would spur economic growth,” said Mangani.
Asked why the ministry allocated the land earmarked for construction of an international bus terminal to private investor, Mangani said: “We believe in first-come first-served. Bonongwe applied for the land earlier than the city council, so we could not deny him [an opportunity to develop it]”.
Mangani also added that the plot allocated to Bonongwe is public land under leasehold condition. In a telephone interview, Bonongwe said he got the offer letter in June this year, adding that with partners, they are currently doing paper work before commencement of construction after the rainy season.
But in separate interviews, both LCC public relations officer Tamara Chafunya and chief executive officer Charles Makanga confirmed writing the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to help them sort out the land issue so that its international bus terminal project should start.
Chafunya said: “There were other issues that needed to be finalised in terms of the land allocation of which LCC made an application to the Ministry of Lands and we are pending a response and direction. Otherwise, the investor is more than ready to commence the project. I can only give you more information once we get a response from the Ministry of Lands.”
But neither Principal Secretary for Lands Charles Msosa and Commissioner of Land Mangani is aware of such an application. When told that the ministry says it is not aware of the LCC application, Makanga stressed that as far as the council is concerned, they applied to the ministry for land in question; hence, they are waiting for a response, ruling out possibility of looking for a place elsewhere.
Makanga said the council will still go ahead with plans to construct the bus terminal although Bonongwe has the same plan. “We will construct ours [international bus terminal]. As for Bonongwe and his International Bus Depot, we will meet when he comes to apply for a business licence,” he said. Under the Lilongwe Urban Master Plan 2010-2030, a modern International Bus Depot has been listed as a priority project necessary to accelerate growth of the city.
The plan indicates that LCC, with support from other partners (PPP), shall construct “the state-of- theart Lilongwe City and Intercity Bus Terminal”.
Records sourced from the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc), which include a summarised report for the Investment Forum 2016, the MoU between the council and Khato Civils on construction of the International and Intercity Bus Terminal is well highlighted.
Khato Civils spokesperson Taonga Botolo could not be drawn to comment on the issue. But a source from the council who opted for anonymity told Nation on Sunday that LCC is disappointed with the Ministry of Lands.
“Ministry of Lands officials were also present when the MoU between LCC and Khato Civils was being signed,” said the source.
Lilongwe currently depends on an ancient bus terminal constructed over four decades ago. The terminal only accommodates just a few local buses with coaches and international buses parking either in gas stations or shopping mall. Minibuses park outside because of lack of space in the current terminal under the management of National Bus Company owned by Mulli Brothers.