The Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) incident that happened in Lilongwe two nights ago is a demonstration of fundamental problems that the nation has allowed to live with for a long time--at a cost.
MHC has razed down houses in Area 49 in Lilongwe leaving the owners of the houses not only destitute but also having lost money they invested in developing the land. It is not difficult to be sympathetic with these people knowing what goes into building a house, what it means to have none after you had one and the fact that some will never be able to build another house.
But the unfortunate situation people have found themselves in gets us back to the root of the problem that has led to the demolition of the houses. There is a culture of encroachment in Malawi even among people who know the law and are therefore supposed to help build awareness for it or enforce it and abide by it.
Recklessly, Malawians have been encroaching into game parks, forest reserves, private estates, reserved land and many other places raising questions on what sort of spirit this is of taking pleasure in being lawless.
For the case of the Area 49, people have been told time and again before that they are getting into that land illegally and they would pay for it.
How some people got the muscle to cash in on that land beats the wildest of imaginations, worse so when you consider some actually knew that the land belonged to MHC but were still willing to give their money to some unscrupulous 'land owners'.
But on the other hand, the development epitomises the long existing problem of shortage of resources and the resulting scramble for them.
Above all, the buck stops with the way MHC functions. The corporation is notorious for taking centuries to develop pieces of land under its ownership.
Now here we are in a very unfortunate situation where every house owner has been taken back to zero after years of struggle to have a house. Law abiding sometimes gives us lasting remedies as compared to shortcuts.