Lilongwe District Council has dismissed claims by GM Properties Limited that it owns land in Kuliyani, Mwambakanthu and Kwindanguwo Villages where the stalled Kanengo Northgate Project sits.
The council’s senior official, James Mwenda, confessed in an interview with Nyasa Times on Wednesday that the council does not have records showing that the company compensated the people of Area 26 in Lilongwe and therefore cannot claim ownership of the land.
The project affected residents of Kuliyani, Mwambakanthu and Kwindanguwo Villages, which fall under the jurisdiction of Traditional Authority (T/A) Chitukula.
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.
However, it later transpired apart from merely expressing interest to acquire the land, GM Properties Limited did not compensate the natives who were earmarked for resettlement in Salima.
Hence, the residents viewed any action the company was taking as a ploy to grab their land using fake documents he acquired from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
GM Properties Limited 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’.
But 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.
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.
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 over 100 hectares of land on which the stalled Kanengo Northgate Project sits.
The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Kezzie Msukwa, is on record express dismay on how GM Properties Limited managed to access a lease for a land he had not compensated its residents.
In an exclusive interview this morning, Mwenda said 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,” said Mwenda.
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.
In an earlier interview, 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.
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.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :