GM Properties Limited – the owners of the Kanengo Northgate Project in Lilongwe – has backtracked on its resolve to grab land from the people using fake documents to justify in courts ownership of the land it did not pay for.
The company has now turned to Lilongwe District Council where it has asked officials to facilitate new negotiations with traditional leaders and landowners.
On Monday morning, senior officials from the council summoned chiefs and community leaders to an impromptu meeting at Kanengo Northgate Project premises where they made an announcement about the new development.
The officials said GM Properties Limited has offered to re-assess the value of the land and compensate anyone who will be affected.
But this has not pleased traditional, community leaders and the natives who suspect foul play.
The villagers wondered why they should engage GM Properties Limited in discussion on new negotiations when the company has not withdrawn its case against them in court.
“We welcome the new negotiations. But why should officials from the council come here to threaten us that the government was at liberty to sell the land to the company? We warn these officials against using their authority to intimidate us. We are not encroachers on this land,” warned the villagers.
On 20 May 2021, GM Properties Limited obtained a court order restraining the settlers from developing their land although the company failed to pay compensations between 2005 and 2006.
But the High Court in Lilongwe stopped attempts by the company from displacing residents of Kuliyani and Mwambakanthu Villages until the court heard from the settlers on their grievances.
The residents hired private practice lawyer, Oscar Taulo, to represent them.
Idah Misiasi – a 45-year-old native of Kuliyani Village – said they do not understand what motivated GM Properties to claim ownership of the land before compensating them.
Misiasi disclosed that all along, the residents have been dealing with the Office of the District Commissioner for Lilongwe and the Ministry of Lands on the issue of relocation to Salima.
However, they were surprised to hear that a certain company was dragging them to court for living and developing their ancestral land.
“How can you claim ownership of a land for which you have not paid? This is a classic case of land grab and we will not allow it in this era. We have never transacted any business with this company called GM Properties Limited,” she narrated.
Traditional Authority (T/A) Chitukula, under which the villages fall, vowed that his subjects would not leave until they are paid their compensations.
Chitukula demanded that the Ministry of Lands and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should institute investigations into how GM Properties Limited managed to secure a title deed for a land the company failed to compensate its settlers in 2006.
One of the documents from the Ministry of Lands in relation to the land under dispute indicates that land had been identified in Salima where the residents were supposed to relocate after getting their compensations.
However, 16 years have gone without a word on their compensation, prompting the settlers to construct modern houses while others sold portions of their land to churches and urban dwellers who are now developing them.
The company got its title deed in 2005, a year before the Ministry of Lands wrote to the Chief Legal Aid Advocate advising the advocate to compensate and resettle the people ‘who have been affected by the project as soon as possible, preferably before the rains’.
“As soon as we finalize matters, we shall advise you accordingly,” reads part of the letter signed by H.L. Jiya.
The Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa said there is a need for an independent probe to authenticate residents’ claims and take appropriate measures on the matter.
Msukwa emphasized that it would be unprocedural to displace or relocate the residents before compensating them.
“So, the first step for us should be to establish which office was handling this issue. And that will take us to where the compensations were stuck,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the villagers said should the negotiations succeed, they will demand that the company should refund them the money they used to hire the lawyer.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :