Madonna’s Malawi char­ity says re­ports of land dis­pute ‘er­ro­neous’

Cape Breton Post - - ART/ENTERTAINMENT - BY NEKESA MUMBI MOODY

The di­rec­tor of Madonna’s Rais­ing Malawi foun­da­tion is deny­ing that there is a land dis­pute over the char­ity’s planned $15 mil­lion girls academy, call­ing re­ports that some vil­lagers feel the project is dis­plac­ing them “er­ro­neous.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press has re­ported that the vil­lage head­man took the vil­lagers’ com­plaints to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, and that lo­cal of­fi­cials have vis­ited the area sev­eral times.

How­ever, Phillip Van den Bosche, who runs the foun­da­tion, said late Satur­day that me­dia re­ports of fric­tion were “not fac­tual.”

He also said that the head of the vil­lage “made a very long speech about how grate­ful he was for this project” at a cer­e­mony for the school.

Rais­ing Malawi is build­ing the school for girls on a 47-hectare plot of gov­ern­ment land near the cap­i­tal, Li­longwe. The land had been used by vil­lagers for farm­ing when it was not uti­lized by the gov­ern­ment, but Malawi re­claimed the land when the ed­u­ca­tional project emerged.

It worked out a deal in which about 200 vil­lagers would be paid 16 mil­lion kwacha (about $115,000) in to­tal by Rais­ing Malawi to com­pen­sate them for their houses — mostly mud-and-thatch struc­tures — and im­prove­ments such as gar­dens and trees.

Van Den Bosche said the deal — which was worked out by the gov­ern­ment but paid for by Rais­ing Malawi — was more than gen­er­ous.

“If you vis­ited the land prior to this al­lo­ca­tion, you would have found that there were at the most one or two small huts” on the land, he said. “The peo­ple who were on the land now have an equiv­a­lent plot of agri­cul­tural land where they can con­tinue their farm­ing ... The com­mu­nity will be en­hanced by this.”

Last week, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials met with vil­lagers. One vil­lager, Amos Mkuyu, said at the meet­ing: “My sis­ters and I in­her­ited this land from our par­ents whose par­ents have been here for over a hun­dred years. How can I get only 200,000 kwacha?”

He re­ceived the 200,000 kwacha, or about $1,500, from Rais­ing Malawi for mango trees and three homes on a three­hectare plot. He seems to think the money was also for the land, but the gov­ern­ment says the vil­lagers did not have ten­ure and so are not owed any­thing for the land.

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