Malawi court stops City Council from demolishing illegal houses

The Blantyre City Council (BCC) has been hammered with a hard punch after the High Court stopped it from clearing illegal developments at Soche Mountain.

Government, through its relevant institutions such as BCC and Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC), ordered encroachers around Soche Mountain to relocate some years back but they defied the orders.

The illegal dwellers have since ambushed the mountain from all angles by constructing structures- from mere shacks to mansions- and deforesting the mountain.

And last week, BCC under heavy police presence took the illegal residents by surprise when it started demolishing some developments and brick kilns on the western part of the mountain.

But after a successful first day mission where illegal structures standing on about 80 hectares of land were pulled down, the exercise has been halted by the court.

Illegal houses at the foot of Soche Mountain
Illegal houses at the foot of Soche Mountain

This followed an injunction obtained by one of the illegal residents Chief Chisa at the High Court in Blantyre stopping the council or its agents from continuing with the demolishing exercise.

“I have indeed obtained an injunction stopping them [BCC] from further demolishing the houses and people’s ovens,” Chief Chisa told Nyasa Times in an interview.

He said the people have nowhere to go and chasing them from their land was an infringement on their wellbeing.

A source at BCC also confirmed the development and said management was yet to map the way forward on the matter.

But in a twist of events, some people whose structures were pulled down have taken Chief Chisa to task asking him to refund the money they paid him to acquire the land and the expenses incurred in developing their plots.

Some victims told Nyasa Times, when they bought the plots from Chisa they were not aware the land belonged to government.

A team of BCC rangers and over 30 armed police officers using two BCC patrol vehicles and a police Land cruiser arrived at the foot of the mountain on Chilobwe side where they first executed their mission.

The team demolished everything deemed to be illegal on a piece of land estimated to be more than 80 hectares.

However, Nyasa Times investigations have revealed that the council rushed to destruct the illegal developments after some blood shed between two warring groups at the historical “Long Live Kamuzu” site on the mountain.

It is reported that one camp, led by Chief Chisa, restrained members of the other from molding bricks on the Chilobwe side of the hill.

In the process, a fierce fight ensued and about 20 people sustained serious injuries.

The case was taken to Soche Police by Chief Chilobwe where the law enforcers summoned officials from BCC, MHC and Lands Department who deal with land allocation.

After the meeting it was established that Chief Chisa, believed to be a Mozambican national but was first settler in the area, instigated the violence after he sent some boys to beat up members of the other camp.

Chief Chisa was arrested by police and taken to court where he was released on bail.

A house built on rocks on the slopes of Soche Mountain- Photos By Nyasa Times
A house built on rocks on the slopes of Soche Mountain- Photos By Nyasa Times

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