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University of Science and Technology still on Late Bingu wa Mutharika’s private land

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Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) still remains on private land belonging to Malawi’s late president Bingu wa Mutharika because government has not yet finalised the process of changing the title deeds.

The first intake of the university is expected next month, according to Principal Secretary for Universities Development Programme MacPhail Magwira.

Officials at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development said this week that documents were sent to State House for Mutharika to sign before he died, but they [documents] have not been returned to the ministry.

“You will recall that the late president made a verbal offer of the land. We at the ministry wanted a written offer and before he died, we were dealing with him to sign the documents. The documents have not reached the Commissioner for Physical Planning to formally approve the land allocation. Commissioner of Lands cannot finalise the deal before the Physical Planning Commissioner approves. It is doubtful if the documents came from State House,” a senior official at the ministry said on Tuesday.

Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Henry Phoya confirmed that the process of changing the status of the land for the university is not yet finalised.

“The process is not yet finalised. We are still working on that. The university was being constructed on private land but, as government, we are working on that so that the university should not be on private land. We are in the process of rectifying that anomaly,” said Phoya.

He said government was working on the issue with speed as the matter is of national interest. But he did not commit himself as to when that process would end. He said there was no impediment to the process.

Asked whether the university could not open because of the unfinished process, Phoya said: “Not necessarily. The legal procedure is just rectifying the title issues.”

Construction of the MUST started in April last year before any documentation to make the land public.

During the groundbreaking ceremony for the university in April, Mutharika said: “MUST is located in Ndata Estate that belongs to me. I have donated to the Malawi nation over 650 acres of land to be the campus for this university. We shall all benefit from this. It does not belong to me.”

Blantyre-based lawyer Justin Dzonzi faulted Mutharika on the manner in which he handled the donation of the land without following procedures. Dzonzi described the process as “not looking good” because government has a lot of land which could have been used for the public project.

The university will provide degrees for the undergraduate, postgraduate and post doctoral studies.

The Chinese Government is constructing the university while Malawi will just meet other costs such as connecting water and roads to the university, according to former Education minister George Chaponda.