Kanengo residents reiterate calls for probe into GM Properties Limited’s lease for 200 hectare land without compensating owners

Residents of Kuliyani, Mwambakanthu and Kwindanguwo Villages in Traditional Authority Chitukula in Lilongwe have reiterated calls for a probe into how GM Properties Limited secured a title deed for a 200 hectare land whose owners the company has failed to compensate to date.

The residents said now that the Lilongwe District Council has confessed that it does not have any record of payment of compensations to the natives, it is only fair that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should investigate how the embattled company managed to acquire a lease for the land on which the stalled Kanengo Northgate Project sits.

A senior official at the council, James Mwenda, recently confessed in an interview with Nyasa Times that they do not have any record to substantiate claims by GM Properties Limited that it compensated the people of Area 26.

ACB Director Martha Chizuma -Pic by Roy Nkosi

Ironically, in May 2021, GM Properties Limited – the owners of the Kanengo Northgate Project in Lilongwe – dragged the villagers to court, alleging that they were encroaching their land.

The project affected residents of Kuliyani, Mwambakanthu and Kwindanguwo Villages, which fall under the jurisdiction of Traditional Authority (T/A) Chitukula.

However, GM Properties Limited did not compensate the natives who were earmarked for resettlement in Salima.

Surprisingly, the company produced what it said is a title deed in respect of the land under dispute.

But Mwenda maintained that the council is not aware of the circumstances that enabled the company to secure the title deed.

“Officials at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development are better placed to respond to that question. But as far as the council is concerned, there is no record showing that GM Properties Limited compensated the people of Area 26, and therefore they can’t move them out of the land,” he said.

He said it is against this background that the council is facilitating renegotiations between GMP Properties Limited and the people to secure new agreements.

When put to him that GM Properties Limited sued the residents over claims that the land belongs to him, Mwenda said: “We were told their intention was to stop further developments on the land because they are still willing to compensate the residents.”

But this explanation has angered some residents, who feel the council is conniving with the company to steal their land.

Dan Kuntanga of Mwambakanthu Village wondered whether it made sense for the council to hold people at ransom because some developer wants to acquire the land.

“Already we are suspicious on how they acquired a title deed for the land. And now they should be telling us that their intention is to stop further developments on the land as if the land belongs to them? What’s the interest of the council in all this matter?” asked Kuntanga.

Village Head Kuliyani described the tactics GM Properties Limited is using to displace them as a big joke. He vowed that he and his subjects are not moving an inch from their ancestral land until GM Properties Limited compensates them.

“We know that this is a ploy by the company to cow us into giving up our land for free. But I wish to assure them that we are going nowhere! Let them give us the money, and then we will move out. Without that, I swear by my late grandparents that we are not moving an inch on this land because Kanengo Northgate Project did not compensate us,” he vowed.

ACB Director General Martha Chizuma is yet to respond to our questionnaire on the action the Bureau would take to bail the stranded residents out.

Some residents are failing to farm on or develop their land because of the injunction the company obtained in May 2021.

According to the documents we have seen, the company acquired the 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’.

Recently, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chitukula, under which the villages fall, vowed that his subjects would not leave until they are paid their compensations.

Chitukula joined residents in demanding an investigation into how GM Properties Limited managed to secure a title deed for a land the company failed to compensate its settlers in 2006.

Ironically, Asian businessperson Azhar Chaudhry and Norman Chisale, security aide to former President Peter Mutharika, are currently under investigations following revelations they dubiously acquired the same land.

Meanwhile, Nyasa Times understands that GM Properties Limited is under pressure from an investor of Indian origin to whom the company sold the land after presenting the lease controversially acquired.

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