Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary (PS) Joseph Mwandidya yesterday made a down-to-earth confession that the ministry is infested with corruption, abuse of office and maladministration.
While offering an apology to members of Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs in Lilongwe, the PS challenged the legislators that some of them could be owners of illegal plots.
He said: “Let me say it without hiding, the Ministry of Lands is rotten. There is no need to hide it. There is too much corruption taking place and people have been duped through a syndicate which I am glad to say has been busted on land sales. There is more that we need to do about it.”
Mwandidya said the chaos has led to land encroachment and some people buying illegal plots.
The PS and 10 other officials appeared before the committee to, among others, give a briefing on what the ministry is doing on land allocation in the country and curbing rising cases of illegal plots.
Lilongwe City South West member of Parliament (MP) Nancy Tembo, a member of the committee, asked the ministry on what it was doing on the sale of land.
She cited the sale of a government secondary school in Area 2 to Malawians of Asian origin. She said the new owners have ordered the school authorities to vacate because they want to demolish it.
Said Tembo: “One tends to wonder where is our country going. Imagine the whole Livimbo School in Area 2 has been sold and students, I am told, are now stranded.
“This is a government school and I am told the land was sold by officials from the Ministry of Lands. Who does that?”
Dowa East MP Richard Chimwendo Banda and Chitipa South legislator Werani Chilenga wondered why foreign nationals own more land than indigenous Malawians.
The MPs accused the ministry of making land expensive to average Malawians, thereby giving an advantage to foreigners to buy the land as they have money.
The meeting comes weeks after Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development busted a parallel ‘Lands Office’ in Lilongwe which transacted and sold plots with counterfeit documents.
Seven suspects were arrested in connection with the dubious ‘Lands Office’.
Information gathered by The Nation indicated that the suspects were released on police bail without being charged.
During the meeting, Mwandidya confirmed the arrest of the suspects, but said he would not disclose names as the issue was being handled by the police.
The PS hinted that the suspects have strong connections with people in authority.
Said Mwandidya: “We are working with ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau] on the syndicate and hopefully something will come up.
“It is sad that the ring leader of the parallel office is an Indian and they are fully connected. But let me assure this committee that we will do what we can to bring this to an end.”
About six plots have since been confirmed sold but the proceeds did not go to the Malawi Government Account Number One.
The six confirmed plots are Area 47/1219 reportedly sold at K300 million and Area 43/ 999, Area 43/998, Area 43/995, Area 43/994 and Area 43/993 which went at K50 million each.
Issues of land scams are not new in Malawi as many people, including Cabinet ministers and high-ranking government officials have previously been duped.
In 2018, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Symon Vuwa Kaunda, then serving as one of President Peter Mutharika’s advisers, was duped about K1.4 million in a fake plot allocation by one Felix Mangani who posed as controller of Lands.
Vuwa Kaunda and other officials made deposits to an NBS Bank current account number 14411631 under the name of G. Kaunga, the suspected fraudster.The Nation investigations at the time also found that the concerned officials made their deposits into Kaunga’s NBS Bank and Airtel Money accounts between February 2017 and February 2018.