Members of Parliament in Malawi on Thursday engaged in intense debate over sale of land close to Dzalanyama Forest Reserve in the central district of Dedza to a foreigner and demanded an immediate stop of any operations on the land.
The MPs accused government and Dedza District Council of disregarding the interests of Malawians when selling over 1 000 hectares of the land to a foreigner when villagers living close to the forest reserve do not have adequate land for residential and farming purposes.
In a special question to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management Jennifer Chilunga, Dedza West MP Phillipo Chinkhondo said the land was part of Dzalanyama Forest Reserve which, he said, acts as a water source for major rivers including Lilongwe and Diamphwe.
“The necessity of Dzalanyama Forest Reserve cannot be overemphasised. As I am speaking, four tractors are already on the site to start clearing the site. Sale of that land is a mockery to the people around the forest reserve because they already don’t have enough land,” said Chinkhondo.
Chilunga said the contested land is where one of the disbanded Malawi Young Pioneer (MYP) training bases was located and not part of the forest reserve, adding that Dedza District Council is the one that facilitated the sale.
But Chinkhondo and other MPs still faulted government and questioned whether council officials followed the law to the letter. They said chiefs in the area were never consulted on the issue.
Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development Henry Phoya said his ministry will investigate how the land was sold to the foreigner and prioritise the interests of Malawians in the process.
Phoya said the proposal to stop any operations on the land will be considered as his ministry investigates the matter.