The High Court, Commercial Division, has rebuked former minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Kamlepo Kalua for his directive to allocate a piece of land to Magnolia Investment when the same was legally leased to someone else by his own ministry.
In the judgment, dated July 2 2020, judge Ken Manda described the former minister’s conduct as illegal, irrational and senseless—further condemning him in costs for his action.
According to court records which we have seen, on April 15 2020 Kamlepo directed that Commercial Plot number Bwaila 5/108 in Lilongwe’s central business district, belonging to Minestone revert to Magnolia Investment, even when the former had a valid lease.
Magnolia was offered the piece of land in question in February 2013 and its lease was registered in June 2014. In June 2018, court records show that the Ministry of Lands issued to Magnolia Investment a final notice of re-entry and that the lease was terminated.
The same piece of land was allocated to Minestone in July 2018 under same condition that the new owner pays premium charges and other required fees within 90 days. Minestone paid K10 million in premium charges and other fees on March 23 2020—outside the 90 days, but got a go-ahead to complete the balance within 90 days after this first payment.
But when they went back for further payment, they were informed of the Minister’s directive that the land had reverted to Magnolia Investment, which prompted search for legal redress.
According to court records, chief lands officer Geoffrey Mvula indicated that the ministry had indeed accepted payment from Minestone and allowed them to pay the remainder within 90 days from the initial payment. Mvula also told the court that as chief lands officer he was not aware of the cancellation of Minestone’s lease of the land.
“In the context of this decision to revert the property back to Magnolia Investments Limited, I believe that the minister did not have the capability to make the decision. This is especially in view of the fact that the same minister had terminated the lease …to Mongolia Investment. Simply put, you cannot revert something that no longer exists.
Then there is also the fact that when the Minister was reverting this property to Magnolia Investments, there was a standing lease of offer to the claimant. This raises the question as to why the minister would give preference to Magnolia and not the claimant,” reads part of the judgment.
According to the judgment, both the minister and the ministry did not avail themselves to the court.
The claimant’s lawyer, Gift Nankhuni, confirmed receiving the judgment, saying it was surprising how the ministry handled the matter and that he is happy because justice has been served.
Principal Secretary for Lands Wilson Moleni asked for more time to consult before commenting on the matter.
The former minister said he was not aware of the judgement; otherwise, he said: “As a minister, I was not supposed to represent myself on the same. A ministerial approval is done on behalf of the government.
Since Kamlepo left office costs for the case will be met by government, according to one lawyer in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
Meanwhile, Police in Lilongwe have arrested seven Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development officers in relation to missing of hard drives from office computers believed to have some vital information on irregular land transactions.
Confirming the development Police PRO for Lilongwe Joseph Kachikho said the seven are in custody as police continue to investigate the matter.
According to Kachikho, the seven will appear in court on Tuesday.