By Govt Correspondent
In exercise of powers as spelt out under section 94(1) of the Constitution, it pleased the State President, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, to appoint Hon. Kezzie Kasambala Msukwa, MP as Minister of Lands and Hon. Abida Sidik Mia, MP, as his deputy. As most of us are aware, the Ministers and deputies were sworn in on Thursday, 9th July, 2020 with a clear message from the President: to deliver to the people of Malawi, to clean the mess in their Ministries and help the President build a new Malawi. This assignment before the Ministers and Deputy Ministers, calls for transparency and accountability, in that Malawians need to know what their servants, the Ministers and Deputy Ministers, are doing in their respective Ministries. This update, is therefore, meant to serve this purpose. What has Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa and his Deputy Abida Sidik Mia done since they ascended into this office? This update chronicles it all.
The Minister and his deputy hit the ground running on Monday, 13th July, 2020 with a familiarization tour of the Ministry’s establishments in the capital Lilongwe. The Ministry of Lands has four departments namely: Department of Physical Planning, Department of Lands, Department of Urban Development, Department of Housing and Survey Department and on this particular day, all these departments were covered to appreciate what they do, the challenges they face and what they are planning to achieve in future.
This visit started on a high note in the other departments with the Lands Department situated in Area 3 in Lilongwe as the anti-climax of the tour as it was learnt that Computer hard disks were stolen in an inexplicable circumstances. This situation left the Minister and the deputy with no choice but to order the closure of the offices pending investigation and audit. The offices are until now remain closed.
On Tuesday, 14th July, 2020, the Minister and his deputy were treated to detailed presentations from Directors of the said departments in the Ministry’s boardroom. This time, the directors were explaining in finer details, what Ministry of Lands is all about and what the said departments basically do, where they derive their legal mandate to do what they do and the programs they have lined up to do. This, one can argue, was more of an orientation session to the Minister and Deputy but more importantly, it was also a platform for the Minister and his Deputy to tell the technocrats the direction the Ministry will take to achieve President Dr Lazarus Chakwera’s vision of building a new Malawi.
On Thursday, 16th July, the Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa delegated his deputy, Hon. Abida Sidik Mia, to Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) regional offices in Mzuzu to understand and possibly resolve grievances junior staff had at the establishment. The junior staff at the institution were striking. They had sealed management offices claiming their bosses were failing to resolve their concerns.
After engaging with the worker’s Trade Union for close to an hour, Deputy Minister Abida Sidik Mia, tapping from her vast experience as a Managing Director in the private sector, managed to resolve the issues to the satisfaction of both parties. It was a win-win situation and when she left Mzuzu that afternoon for Zowe House in Lilongwe where the Ministry of Lands is housed, peace, love and tranquility had finally returned at Mzuzu MHC offices. It was a mission accomplished!
However, the Deputy Minister, Hon. Abida Sidik Mia, advised Management to be proactive in resolving grievances of their junior staff as happy staff members are likely to be more productive than disgruntled ones. The Deputy Minister observed that the concerns she dealt with from the junior staff members were petty which, in an ideal situation, would not demand the attention of the Deputy Minister, saying the issues would have been resolved at Management level—indeed at Human Resource Management level.
After engaging the junior staff and Management at MHC Mzuzu Office, the Deputy Minister proceeded to visit house units being constructed by MHC at Kaning’ina and Chasefu in the evergreen city.
In their second week, the duo—the Minister and Deputy Minister— embarked on a Northern region tour to familiarize themselves with the Ministry’s establishments on that side. On Monday, 20th July, 2020, the Minister and the Deputy Minister were in Chitipa where they paid a courtesy call on the District Commissioner’s (DC) office and thereafter held a meeting in the Council Chamber with technocrats from Physical Planning, Lands as well as Malawi Housing Corporation for a briefing on Land matters. Thereafter, the Minister and his Deputy visited a site at Chitipa Prison where the Ministry intends to construct house units for prison staff.
On the same day, the Minister’s entourage visited Karonga where similar rituals of paying a courtesy call to the DC were observed before a meeting at Karonga District Council Chamber. Paramount Chief Kyungu and other senior Chiefs were also in attendance. After meeting technocrats, the Minister’s entourage proceeded to visit a site at Ipyana where the Ministry intends to construct Police Staff houses.
On Tuesday, 21st July, 2020, the tour took the Minister of Lands, Hon. Kezzie Msukwa and his Deputy, Hon. Abida Sidik Mia, to Rumphi for a similar exercise. Thereafter, on this same day, they visited Mzuzu City with a courtesy call at Civic Offices where the duo were welcomed by the Mayor of the City from where they visited the site for construction of houses for both police as well as Prison Staff. The duo also visited Lands Offices from where they proceeded to visit the Survey offices in Mzuzu before being treated to an intellectual feast where regional (North) heads in the Ministry of Lands made their Presentations at Mzuzu Hotel.
On Wednesday, 22nd July, 2020, the Minister and Deputy Minister started their day by opening a Media workshop on the Land Reforms Program in Nkhatabay. Thereafter, they visited a site where the Ministry intends to construct Police staff houses. The tour finally took them to Salima where after touring the Ministry’s establishments saw the duo being treated to presentations on the status quo of land matters in the district at Salima District Council Chamber.
The Minister and Deputy then attended to office matters in Lilongwe on Thursday 23rd and Friday, 24th July, 2020.
During their third week starting Monday, 27th July, 2020, the Minister Hon. Kezzie Msukwa, delegated her Deputy, Hon. Abida Sidik Mia, to appreciate the situation on the ground in the country’s old capital, Zomba, where reports emerged that there is chaos as far as land transactions are concerned.
The deputy Minister rushed to the old capital and confirmed the reports. She fired warning shots that the Chakwera run administration will not tolerate illegality and corruption as far as land issues are concerned. In Zomba, the cases which have been unearthed range from having one parcel of land being allocated to multiple clients to illegal acquisition of land by members of the public.
Deputy Minister Hon. Abida Sidik Mia made it clear that the government will recover parcels of land acquired illegally and that the rule of law for those involved in dubious sale of land will take its course.
On Friday, the Minister held a meeting with the Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, Right Honorable Saulos Klaus Chilima, who is championing public reforms. Writing on his facebook page following the meeting, Vice President Chilima said the Minister of Lands, Hon. Kezzie Msukwa, was “…from the onset [of the meeting]…candid to state that the ministry requires cleaning up and dismantling of corruption syndicates involving the dubious sale of land that has been going on for too long.” The Vice President assured the Minister of his support to clean the ministry.”
1. The Minister and Deputy Minister have observed and conceded that the Ministry of Lands is to a large extent in a mess and that it needs to be cleansed for it to better serve Malawians.
2. The Minister and Deputy Ministers have also observed that there is encroachment of public land and they have vowed to restore that land.
WHAT THEY INTEND TO ACHIEVE
Among other things, this is what the Minister of Lands and his Deputy Intends to achieve.
1. The Minister and Deputy Minister have assured Malawians that they will clear the rubble of corruption in the Ministry and as part of sanitizing the Ministry, Some senior officers have already been transferred to other Ministries to pave way for new blood.
2. They have also vowed to bust land syndicates, to undo land transactions that were executed illegally and fraudulently.
3. They have also assured that they will encourage professionalism among staff in the Ministry of Lands and that Merit will be the yardstick when recruiting staff at the institution.
4. They have vowed that they will put measures to ensure that the Ministry is as transparent and accountable in providing services to the Public.
5. They have also assured that they will introduce legislation to allow Malawians in diaspora apply for land online.
6. They have also assured that they will mainstream gender in plot allocations.
7. The Minister and Deputy Minister also intends to preside over construction of house units for our men and women in Uniform across the country. 1000 house units will be built in phase one.