No more Katoto Freedom Park, Mzuzu Council sell land to Shoprite

Mzuzu City Council has sold the Katoto Freedom Party to Shoprite Chain Stores and the place has been fenced in readiness for construction of a shopping mall.

Richard Hara, CEO of Mzuzu City, says the selling of land should not be a worry to the public, saying the development will have economic advantage to the government and Mzuzu City in particular.

Katoto Freedom Park located centrally but close to Katoto Secondary School in the city, has for long been used for holding various kinds of meetings including political meetings, demonstrations, vigils, religious and trade union meetings.

CEO Richard Hara: Mzuzu City Council has sold Katoto Freedom Park

For instance, July 20, 2011 demonstrations aimed at pressing the late President Bingu wa Mutharika administration to solve social and economic problems the country was then facing, started at the park. Eight people died after police shot at the demonstrators in the city.

Now that the place has been sold to Shoprite Chain Stores for the construction of a shopping mall, some members of the general public have been left wondering where such meetings would now be held.

However, the city chief said the place was not a public land, but a property of Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) kept for commercial purposes and not a freedom park as it has been popularly called for a long time.

“After all people can hold their meetings on any ground in the city,” said Hara, citing Mzuzu upper Stadium as an alternative venue.

He said the sale of the land for the construction of a shopping mall should not even be a worry as Shoprite Chain Stores will be paying city rates or ground rents to the city, which is an economic advantage to the country and Mzuzu City in particular.

“As a city, we are delighted with this new development. People now have to look for other places where they can meet for various activities.

“We have places like the Mzuzu upper Stadium where the public can conduct meetings and other gatherings,” Hara said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a highly placed source at the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) confirmed the sale of the land to Shoprite Chain Stores.  The source said the area is part of the commercial land that the corporation has and was sold at over MK44 million.

The source disclosed that the Katoto Freedom Park land had two plots namely, C/CRT (Chinula Crest/535A) and C/CRT (Chinula Crest/ 535B).

Apart from Katoto Freedom Park, Malawi has Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre where people gather for different meetings. The parks were instituted in the 1990s during the transition from one party system of government to multiparty democracy.

Other countries have similar special places where civil society organizations and others conduct meetings especially those aimed at pressing governments to respond to the needs of the society. For instance, China has Timanen Square, Egypt has Tahir Square while Libya has Martyrs’ Square (formerly Green Square).

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