Mist over public school ‘sale’

Mist surrounds the status of Livimbo Community Day Secondary School in Lilongwe allegedly sold to two Malawians of Asian origin with Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Symon Vuwa Kaunda and ministry insiders giving conflicting details.

While the minister insisted during a news conference in Lilongwe yesterday that the land on which the school lies in Lilongwe’s Area 2 still belongs to government, well-placed sources in the ministry confided in The Nation that a recently-busted parallel ‘Lands Office’ sold off the land.

Some of of the warehouses (R) and fence built on land belonging to the school

The issue of ownership of Livimbo School land came to light on Tuesday 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.

The revelation stirred a furore on social media networks yesterday after The Nation published proceedings from the meeting where the ministry’s Principal Secretary Joseph Mwandidya admitted the ministry was infested with rot.

In a swift reaction to the revelations yesterday, Vuwa Kaunda convened a press conference in Lilongwe after visiting the school.

He said it was “unfortunate” that Tembo made her statement without investigating the issue.

Said the minister: “These are mere allegations and fake story. Honourable Nancy Tembo brought up this issue to say we have sold the area and my Principal Secretary did not confirm that. It was a mere allegation and a false allegation.

“My advice to all members of Parliament, especially those affiliated to MCP [Malawi Congress Party] is that they must investigate before making up statements. It was an allegation meant to tarnish the image of government.”

But Vuwa Kaunda did not rule out that a syndicate at his ministry was recently busted for illegally selling land. However, he was quick to say that their investigations indicate the syndicate did not touch Livimbo School.

However, a well-placed source in the ministry confided that the busted syndicate is the one believed to have sold the land as its ring leader was a businessperson of Asian origin and the land was sold to Malawians of Asian descent.

The source said it was unfortunate that the minister chose to attack the whistle-blower, Tembo, instead of allowing further investigations into the matter.

Said the source: “Honourable Tembo just said what she saw was not happening right. The best approach could have been for the ministry to investigate.

“If you visit the site, you will notice that the school premises has been encroached by warehouses and a fence. What do you call that?”

During a spotcheck at the school, The Nation found that the school premises had some warehouses constructed closer to classrooms. There are also boundary beacons mounted inside the school premises purportedly by the encroachers.

One teacher at the school said in an interview that the land is invaded.

Said the teacher: “That fence you are seeing there is in the school’s compound. Even part of the warehouses.

“We had a woodlot, but it’s been taken by the Asians. They built a warehouse there too. They even challenged us that if we will not construct a fence, they will continue developing the land because they have bought it.”

The teacher said the encroachers also told school authorities that they plan to construct a road through the secondary school section to access their warehouses.

In an interview yesterday, Tembo said the school committee met her twice to complain about the situation.

She said she was saddened by the situation; hence, her raising the issue with ministry officials during the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament meeting.

“The students were stranded. I just wanted to see justice to the allegations. I am not even attacking government because as an MP, I have been approached several times,” said Tembo.

Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Principal Secretary Justin Saidi, who visited the school together with Vuwa Kaunda, said it was wrong to say the school was sold at a time government wants to increase the number of schools.

He said: “That’s not true. We can’t sale a school. There is no way we can sell the school. We have students who need to learn.”

On Tuesday, Mwandidya admitted that his ministry is rotten as there is corruption, abuse of office and maladministration in as far as land allocation and distribution is concerned.

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, 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.

Two weeks ago, 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.

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