A legal battle between the family of the late General Graciano Matewere and a company that purportedly bought his Lunzu Estate Limited valued at K20 billion has ensued.
The matter, coming in the High Court’s Commercial Division in Blantyre on February 25, has Matewere’s sons as applicants and four individuals, and the company, GM Properties Limited, as defendants.
The land under contention—Plot Michiru 14, at Kameza, along Lunzu Road in Blantyre— is estimated to be over 100 hectares and part of it is where government constructed the Kamuzu Nursing College (KCN) Campus.
It is also part of the land where government wanted to construct the Gaddafi Hospital.
Now, what is the bone of contention?
The applicants—Colonel Mathias Matewere and Martin Matewere,—represented by lawyer Ambokire Salimu contend that one of their brothers, Graciano Matewere Junior, had no legal authority to transfer shares when the estate was purportedly in receivership, because he was neither a board member nor shareholder of Lunzu Estate Limited.
The claimants, according to the court record, are screaming blatant fraud on the purported transfer of shares in 1995; hence, their application for an order of rectification of the company register.
But the defendants—Altaf Ahmed Mahomed, Amina Altaf Mahomed, Chaundrey Azhar Mahomed, Bashir Aboobaker Osman Nathvani and GM Properties Limited, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants in that order—argue that Lunzu Estate Limited was placed under receivership by National Bank of Malawi for failure to meet its financial obligations, and was subsequently bought by the defendants.
The defendants, represented by lawyer James Masumbu, deny that there were suspicious transactions as the applicants suggested, arguing that at the death of General Matewere, Apex Group of Companies, which is owned by Altaf Ahmed Mahomed, Amina Altaf Mahomed and Bashir Aboobaker Osman Nathvani, had bought the shares and assets of the estate through the receivership.
But the claimants, who want the court to determine whether there is legal basis on which the court can make an order to rectify the company register, argue that there was no sale of shares and whatever happened was fraudulent and illegal, and the sale was void.
Salimu, in sworn skeleton arguments, says there was evidence that, in 1995, entries were made onto the company’s register purporting that the applicants had resigned as shareholders and directors of Lunzu Estate Limited.
“My Lord, the evidence is to further effect that in 2004, the register was further tampered with 1st, 2nd and 4th defendants purported to transfer shares…of [Lunzu Estate Limited] to the third defendant and his daughter.
“In 2005 the shares were purportedly transferred to [GM Properties Limited], a company owned by the third defendant and the late Gaudy Maluza,” reads the statement, in part.
The lawyer argues that evidence point to a clear and premeditated scheme of fraud in the manner the register was tampered with by the defendants, adding this is a proper case for the court to order rectification.
But the defendants argue that there were no resignations at Lunzu Estate Limited, rather change of ownership.
The defendants, who are challenging the claimants to provide proof of the alleged fraud, also deny that the documents presented to the Register of Companies were not for the change of directors as alleged, but for registration of transfer of shares.
The defendants, through Masumbu, further argue that none of them were involved in the appointment of the receiver, Farook Sacranie.
“The defendants’ dealings with the receiver were all transparent and lawful. The claimants have to date not challenged the receivership through which the defendants purchased Lunzu Estate Limited. The claimants’ challenge would in any way be statute barred,” argue the claimants.
The defendants deny forgery allegations as claimed by the claimants who provided samples sourced from Malawi Defence Force (MDF) that General Matewere’s signature was forged.
But in reply to the defence, Salimu, on behalf of the claimants, argues that there is no proof of sale of Lunzu Estate Limited via receiver.
He argues that the purported instruments of sale of shares were never executed by the Matewere family, adding there was no sale of shares agreement.
“The persons cited as transferors in the 1995 alleged sale of shares certificates did not sign the said documents and thus the fraud; glaring and obvious,” the claimants argue.
They argue, in this matter coming before Justice Rachel Sikwese, that their claim for declaratory orders is not statute barred.