LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Malawi government officials from departments including the Ministry of Lands, Lilongwe City Council (LCC), and Department of Environmental Affairs defrauded Entrepreneur and philanthropist Napoleon Dzombe MK500 million for setting up a modern bus terminal in the capital Lilongwe.
Eventually, Dzombe abandoned the project as government officials were still demanding more money before the commencement of the project.
Due to frustration, prompted to embark on the Kalipano Hotel project in Dowa District.
Dzombe, the founder of Mtalimanja Holdings told Nation Newspaper that in 2018 his company acquired land and developed concepts for the construction of an international bus terminal in Area 46 in Lilongwe, off the Lilongwe West Bypass Road. The project was estimated to cost US$19 million.
But Dzombe said he abandoned the project after public officers kept on demanding more money to process paperwork which never materialised for a good three years.
“The Malawi Government should be able to support people willing to invest in this country. Last week, I was in Uganda and I learnt that land for an investor is given for free and they also give a 10-year tax holiday.
“If this was the arrangement here, I think we would have more investors in Malawi and this country would not be the same,” worried Dzombe.
He disclosed that after buying land from another investor, whom the government had identified for the project, he was asked to pay MK234 million in development fees.
Dzombe said he paid the amount and had designs done in China for US$50 000 and LCC charged him MK13 million as a scrutiny fee which he duly paid only to be told that the structural drawings and plans needed to be designed locally.
He said he engaged a local consultant who charged MK100 million for the designs which he paid and again handed over the plans to the council.
“For the same plan, one charged MK900 million, another one K200 million and the lowest was K100 million. So, after this, we were allowed to start working on the ground (land) and we deployed heavy equipment to clear the ground.
“But a week after LCC stopped us, saying the scrutiny fee had increased to MK25 million so we needed to pay MK12 million more before we could proceed with our work. At this point, I was frustrated,” worried Dzombe.
He said he had also paid MK6.5 million for a consultant to help with environmental-related papers “which took forever to get approvals from the Environmental Department”.
Dzombe said he did not understand why the government treated him this way for a project that would benefit the whole country.
He said this marked his U-turn on the bus project and opted to build Kalipano Hotel in Dowa which is being managed by Sunbird Tourism plc.
The international bus depot project deal was mooted at the 2016 Malawi Investment Forum where Khato Civils emerged as a prospective investor after signing three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to construct the Salima–Lilongwe Waterway, to implement a toll-gate project and, also construct the intercity and international bus terminal.
But in 2017, controversy arose after the Ministry of Lands allocated land earmarked for the terminal to another local investor, David Bonongwe contrary to LCC’s plan to have Khato Civils as an investor.
Ministry of Lands, at the time, told The Nation on Sunday that Bonongwe had a more convincing development plan than Khato Civils.
But in a twist of events, Bonongwe of Moni Bus Services sold the land and his concept to Dzombe in 2018 after failing to pay development fees.
The bus terminal, which from the plan will include banks and a shopping mall, is part of Lilongwe Urban Plan in which the council plans to partner with an investor.
LCC’s chief executive officer Macloud Kadammanja and spokesperson Tamara Chafunya failed to respond on the matter when contacted.
On the other hand, Malawi Investment and Trade Centre CEO Paul Khwengwere asked for more time while Minister of Lands Deus Gumba Banda did not pick up calls too.
Meanwhile, Dzombe’s Kalipano Hotel which is currently managed by Sunbird is expected to be officially launched on August 28, 2023, at its base in Dowa district.