Lilongwe City Council says foreigners need to have a minimum of US$250,000 business capital before they can be issued with a business licence by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Speaking when the council officials appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism on the issue of refugees’ refusal to relocate despite a High Court order, Acting CEO Vitto Mulula admitted the influx of foreigners parading as asylum seekers and refugees is a challenge.
He bemoaned the lack of coordination among concerned Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) such as the Immigration, Police and Ministry of Trade in ensuring the foreigners operate according to the law.
Among others, the Council has championed mediation led by the District Commissioner (DC), to ensure no xenophobic attacks on foreign traders.
This follows the High Court’s order in August 2022 clearing government to flush out foreign businesses owned by refugees and asylum seekers in cities and that they should be operating from Dzaleka refugee camp.
However, the Council stated that central government has not guided the implementation hence will lobby it on financing enforcement operations to ensure adherence to the High Court’s ruling.
Thyolo central lawmaker Ben Phiri queried what licences the Council issues and what informs them.
In response, the council indicated that licences are almost given to each and every trader with business premises licences done by the Ministry of Industry and Trade while liquor business licences are from the council.
Mulula cited the operation on vendors has not been successful as they have to pay officers from the Malawi Police K6 million a day.
He disclosed that they will do joint operations with the Ministry of trade to close businesses operating illegally.
Committee Chairperson Simplex Chithyola Banda expressed concern with the lack of seriousness when it comes to vetting noting there were no joint meeting after the injunction was lifted.
Lilongwe city mayor councilor Richard Banda admitted the council has manpower challenges in enforcing the order.
According to one of the Council officials, there is lack of clear roles between Police, Immigration and the Ministry of Homeland security on the repatriation exercises adding that foreign nationals front indigenous persons as the ones running the businesses.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for responding positively to the meeting
He challenged them on the need to adhere to court resolutions stressing that the Committee needs to see action
Chithyola Banda spoke on the need to harmonise the licencing processes to reduce duplication.
He called for continued engagement between the city and other stakeholders to avoid blame games