It has emerged that more public schools have lost sections of their plots to unscrupulous individuals masquerading as Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development officials.
Briefing journalists at Parliament Building in Lilongwe yesterday, Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee chairperson Kezzie Msukwa said his committee instituted an inquiry and found that the case of Livimbo School in Lilongwe’s Area 2 is just a tip of the iceberg as more schools have been encroached.
He mentioned Chimutu, Chilambula, New Shire and Magwero in Lilongwe as some of the schools whose land has been encroached by some developers. He also said they received reports of other cases in Blantyre.
Msukwa gave the briefing after a scheduled crucial meeting with officials from the Ministry Lands, Housing and Urban Development, as a follow-up to the alleged irregular selling of the government-run Livimbo School to Malawian businesspersons of Asian origin, failed to take place yesterday morning.
The ministry sent an apology that its senior officials were not available.
Regretting that the meeting failed yesterday, Msukwa said: “We wanted to continue our inquiry on Livimbo. But we have realised that there are more government plots and land allegedly encroached; so, we will engage a full throttle investigation.”
He also indicated that his committee will investigate more land issues, saying there is information alleging that most of the plots in new Area 43 in Lilongwe were allegedly sold to foreign nationals.
Reacting to the developments, Civil Society Coalition of Education (Csec) executive secretary Benedicto Kondowe said the criminal acts whereby some government and other officials have been conniving to sell off government property could be nationwide.
“For example, my office was given a query by a councillor in Chinsapo, where part of the land belonging to a school there was given out by some Lands Ministry officials to people, allegedly including a Permanent Secretary!
“Also, in Area 25, a government school plot is being transferred to a business person. This is chaotic and calls for a national land survey to be undertaken promptly to arrest this rot,” he said.
Kondowe proposed that the audit should probe issues not only at government schools but also public hospitals and other medical facilities.
“I would plead with President Peter Mutharika to actually institute an independent inquiry into this serious matter, as the Ministry of Lands cannot effectively investigate deeds of its crooked officers facilitating this scandal. Actually, the ministry has already given some contradictory statements which have not been convincing on what is being done about the matter that puts innocent school learners at a great disadvantage,” he said.
Commenting on the issues at Magwero School, which was originally run by the Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, the synod’s general secretary the Reverend Vasco Kachipapa said it is regrettable that the sports facility could not be given to the learners, who need to exercise to be healthy.
He faulted traditional leaders and the school committee for not arguing in favour of the school-children in retaining the facility.
Kachipapa said the Magwero issue is a sign of a bigger problem created by the government for not fully involving church partners who initially brought about school and medical facilities whose operations the government took over.
He said: “Sometimes we have a perception that the government uses chiefs and committee members to sideline churches at schools and health facilities so that the government influence is 100 percent. We think the approach is wrong.
“We will schedule a meeting on our partnership flaws which we must resolve. At schools, for example, we should not disturb learners through a fight between partners of when property buyers pitch up and grab stuff, to the disappointment of the schoolchildren.”
In an interview yesterday, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Symon Vuwa Kaunda said he was surprised by the latter discoveries by the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament.
He admitted that schools had been targeted in the land-grabbing scams that his ministry is also investigating.
On Saturday, the minister U-turned on his earlier dismissal of the Livimbo case and admitted that the school’s premises were encroached and that they will take necessary action.
The Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) has since instituted a probe into the alleged sale of the school and were represented by one officer when PAC expected to meet officials from the ministry.
The revelation stirred a debate on social media and other circles after The Nation exposed the issue, when the ministry, through Principal Secretary Joseph Mwandidya admitted that some of its officials were peddling illegal land dealings. Lilongwe City South West legislator Nancy Tembo disclosed the Livimbo issue during the Legal Affairs Committee meeting with ministry officials.