Residents in areas that were declared disaster prone last year are refusing to relocate to where Mzuzu City Council (MCC) has offered them plots for free, it has been established.
In April 2016, most parts of Malawi’s Northern Region especially Mzuzu City and Karonga District experienced persistent heavy rainfall which resulted in floods and landslides that damaged property and killed seven people after walls of their houses fell on them.
The situation prompted the country’s President Arthur Peter Mutharika to declare the affected places as disaster areas effective April 12 and asked for humanitarian relief assistance from well-wishers, both local and international.
Affected locations in Mzuzu City included parts of Ching’ambo, Masasa, Chibanja and Chiputula.
After touring affected households last year, Vice-President Saulos Chilima ordered the city council to find a location where residents from disaster prone areas could be resettled.
MCC’s spokesperson, Karen Msiska said in an interview Friday that the council identified a location and allocated the affected residents free plots but the people have turned down the offer.
“The council identified 180 plots at Area 6 for the people who were affected by the disaster and all who live in the disaster prone areas but they have all decided not to relocate because of various reasons.
“For example, some of them are failing to relocate because they have perhaps more than two houses where they are renting out some, and fear to lose out from rentals they get once relocated,” Msiska said.
He added that some affected residents are demanding compensation from the city which, he said, is unrealistic.
“We have a challenge in that many of these residents demanding compensations are settled in areas where they encroached our plots and built their structures.
“So it’s unfair for them to start demanding compensations on plots that they for sure know that do not belong to them.
Alick Nyamwera from Masasa location said they are finding it difficult to relocate because they feel the whole relocation process is corrupt.
“Imagine there are some cases where one has a big plot here, but the council is giving him or her very tiny plot while some who have connections at the council but have small plots are given very big plots at the new site.
“This is why people are reluctant to move as they fear they might just lose out their otherwise bigger plots in preference to the new site,” Nyamwera said.
Another concerned Masasa resident Masida Mkandawire said they cannot relocate to the new plots because of the absence of some amenities like electricity and others.
“Imagine I have been staying in my house which is well electrified here in Masasa and to be resettled to another place where I know for sure there are no such necessities.
“The council should have provided such facilities so that people do not feel losing out from the whole relocation process,” Mkandawire said.
However, Msiska pleaded with the residents to reconsider their decision saying the council and Mzuzu University already conducted an assessment which concluded that locations like Masasa are high disaster prone hence the need for people to relocate.
Msiska then said the council has developed a Disaster Strategic Framework which will guide various measures that stakeholders will take in case such tragedies strike again.
“Apart from this, we will continue to sensitize people to avoid living in places that we have marked as disaster prone.
Despite the slow response from the residents, we will continue to inform them to move to better sites which we have already identified and is free,” Msiska said.