Blantyre City Council u-turns on houses demolition
This mainly applies to over 10,000 households living at Soche, Bangwe, Ndirande and Mpingwe hills in the city.
But BCC’s Public Relations Manager, Anthony Kasunda could not be drawn to give further information on the matter.
“The council would like to state clearly that there is no ultimatum for people of Soche Hill, Ndirande Hill and Mpingwe Hill to relocate.
People of these areas should not live in fear. “The Council does not just wake up and demolish people’s houses. It follows procedures and principles of natural justice. The Council would like to assure the people of these areas that it has no immediate intention to demolish their structures. However, being disaster prone areas, people are advised to take precautionary measures and those willing to voluntarily relocate can apply to the Council for residential plot,” Kasunda said.
The Council’s decision has created a lot of room for speculation.
Political Scientists Association of Malawi said political consequences that could face politicians and especially the ruling party cannot be ruled out.
“Nonetheless, regardless of the possible reasons, Malawians should also realise that polices do change.
“It is also a good thing to see government policies being challenged by citizens or indeed government showing flexibility when it realised that implementation of a given policy could bring more negative results than benefits,” said Publicity Secretary for Political Scientists Association of Malawi, Andrew Mpesi.
On Monday, Vice President Saulos Chilima—who is also Minister responsible for Disaster Management Affairs—ordered Lilongwe City Council (LCC) to demolish illegal structures which are said to be responsible for the repeated flash floods in Ntandile township.
In December 2017, the vice president bashed the BCC for failing to act on illegal settlements which are practically a disaster in waiting.
A month later, the BCC issued a statement, which was published in the local media, giving the illegal settlers a 60 day notice to demolish their structures and relocate.
But the Council reversed its decision, days after we published a story depicting the current situation on the ground.
According to Mpesi, the implication of the reversal is that BCC has been embarrassed beyond measure and it will be hard for residents to take seriously its decisions in future.
He highlighted that the current decision largely affects the poor who have no capacity to afford expensive pieces of land within the city.
“They encroached on mountain reserves when the BCC was in deep slumber. Who is to blame in this case? Of course it is the City Council,” Mpesi concluded.
Spokesperson for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Francis Kasaila while dismissing allegations that his party has influenced the Council’s decision said it is important to be fair to Malawians on this matter.
“The DPP has nothing to do with this issue. But you might agree that this issue needs to be properly analysed and both sides need to be heard,” he said.
Kasaila also blamed the Council, saying they saw houses being built but did nothing.
“Something must have terribly gone wrong… the city has rangers and where were they? The people indeed settled in the wrong place but as earlier said, this issue needs to be thoroughly handled as they might also be victim of circumstances because someone somewhere made a mistake,” he said.
He added: “Let us be fair to all Malawians. Let us punish those that are supposed to be punished and not the innocent.”
Department for Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) said councils have been handling the (illegal settlements) issue with the seriousness it deserves.
Spokesperson for the department, Chipiliro Khamula noted that there are a number of legal as well as financial challenges that councils encounter to relocate the illegal settlers.
“The Department highly discourages any type of construction [commercial or residential] in disaster prone areas.
Government spends millions in responding to disasters much of which occur in disaster prone areas, whose inhabitants are reluctant to relocate to safer places in the upland,” he said in a written questionnaire response.
Meanwhile, Dodma has said it has engaged councils in identifying areas for the settlement of people living in disaster prone areas.
According to Dodma, since October 2017, disasters have affected 17,585 households (96,000 people), countrywide. The Department has provided food and non-food relief items such as maize, kitchen utensils and blankets to 14,404 households.
Government allocated K1.2 billion for disaster response and recovery under the Unforeseen Circumstances Vote in the 2017/18 financial year.