Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has given Blantyre City Council (BCC) 15 days to provide information on the sale of land next to the civic offices where Golden Peacock Hotel was constructed.
In a letter dated September 14 2020 and addressed to BCC chief executive officer Alfred Chanza, HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence stated that the council should meet the requirement of the newly-gazetted Access to Information Act.
Reads the letter in part: “Please take note that this request shall also stand as presented under Section 18 of the Access to Information Act immediately on the day the Act shall come into force, viz: 30th September 2020.”
HRDC demanded to be furnished with all transactions of the sale, including why the land, which was previously reserved for extension of BCC infrastructure and other developments, was sold, who authorised the sale, how the buyer was identified and all supporting documents.
Reads the letter in part: “If the council authorised the sale, kindly share the minutes to that effect. How was the land valued and what was the assessed value for purposes of the sale? Kindly share the valuation report, if any. How much was paid to the council by the purchaser? Please share any supporting documents.”
BCC is also being asked to shed more light on allegations that politics took centre-stage in the sale of the land.
BCC spokesperson Anthony Kasunda in a telephone interview on Monday said the council was yet to receive the letter but will act accordingly after appreciating the contents.
He said: “We don’t know the information that they [HRDC] are looking for. The council and management will look at the contents of the letter and attend to it.”
In a separate interview, Trapence said they will give BCC time to put together the information.
“If citizens are asking for that information, then the council, as a government office, should provide it because we now have a law,” he said.
Last year, BCC disregarded a recommendation by the city’s town planning committee not to construct a diversion along the Masauko Chipembere Highway for the new hotel.
Malawi Institution of Engineers president Wilson Chirwa, whose officers formed part of the committee that did not support the developer’s plan to link the hotel access road from the Masauko Chipembere Highway, faulted BCC’s handling of the matter.
The hotel stands on 22 000 square metres and is a $25 million (about K18.7 billion) investment.