Magistrate’s Court in Blantyre has ordered illegal settlers on Soche Hill to demolish their houses and vacate the hill within six months.
Senior Magistrate Jean Rosemary Kayira made the directive on Monday according to a statement released by Blantyre City Council (BCC) who have since welcomed the ruling.
The order follows the conviction and sentencing of Isaac Chitsa, who was posing as chief of the area and illegally sold land on Soche Hill.
“It is hereby ordered that settlers at Long Live Kamuzu Soche who settled through the criminal acts of Isaac Chitsa should vacate the land within six months from 10th November, 2014,” Kayira’s order reads.
“And the City Assembly should execute its undertaking in relation to the 64 settlers who were offered relocation to Machinjiri,” she said.
The Blantyre City Council had offered in 2007 to relocate the 64 families that had settled illegally in the area to South Lunzu but they refused. Now the number has grown to over 1 000 families because the convict continued to sell the land, said Anthony Kasunda, BCC spokesperson in the statement.
On October 30, 2014, the court convicted Isaac Chitsa for undermining the lawful power or authority of Paramount Chief, Sub-Chief or Chiefs Council contrary to section 22 (b) of the Chiefs Act and unauthorised use of land and premises contrary to section 316 of the Penal Code.
But Chitsa continued to illegally sell land thereby creating illegal settlement at an area earmarked for construction of water tanks despite the intervention of T/A Kapeni, Group Village Headman Chilobwe and other chiefs.
In mitigation, Chitsa said he was a first offender and that he keep orphans. He also pleaded with the court that there were many people at the area so the court should not consider ordering an eviction.
The magistrate observed that although Section 339 and 340 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code considers a custodial sentence as a last resort for first offenders, Chitsa did not qualify to enjoy such provisions.
Said Kayira: “The convict demonstrated a high continued open defiance to authorities, good reasoning and sound advice. The settled facts are that the convict herein was aware when he gave land to people starting from 2007 until now.”
“Apart from that, Blantyre City Assembly officials have been visiting this place and having discussions involving the accused person in relation to the unlawful settlement on this land,” said the magistrate.
Kayira said it was evident that the increase in the number of residents and conduction activities happened even after the issues were known to people including the convict.
“The accused benefited from his planned criminal acts. The law is clear that a person should not benefit from criminal activities. The convict has been selling land to different people. He pretended to be a chief of Long Live Kamuzu area.
“He actually produced a stamp which he used when selling the land in this area. In all fairness, the convict calculated his acts. He strategised himself by moving from Group Village Headman Misesa’s jurisdiction to this place in order to effectively execute his criminal plan. The planning and financial benefits aggravate the present offence,” she said.
“Bearing in mind that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors this court sentences Isaac Chitsa to 13 months imprisonment on the second count of unauthorised use of land and premises,” ruled the magistrate.
The convicted “chief” was also ordered to pay a fine of K50 000 (about $108) on the count of defying authorities or serve three months imprisonment in default.