The High Court in Zomba Friday granted an injunction to the Malawi Law Society (MLS), effectively stopping all groundwork activities for government’s $500 million (K400 billion) Salima-Lilongwe water project by Khato Civils (Pty) Limited.
Lawyer representing MLS, Michael Goba Chipeta, disclosed in an interview Friday that the court also dismissed Khato’s application to have an application filed by the MLS for a judicial review.
Following the dismissal of the Khato’s application, it meant the application was sustained and the court, according to Chipeta, would proceed on October 1 this year to hear the application.
On the other hand, the injunction granted meant that Khatho, which was contracted by the Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) for the multi-billion kwacha project, must stop all its activities it was already undertaking until a determination of the matter after hearing of the judicial review, unless Khato appeals and succeeds in the Malawi Supreme Court against the order of the injunction.
Lawyer for Khato, Frank Mbeta, was not available for a comment.
MLS argues that the water project contravenes the Environmental Management Act as some procedures were not followed.
Judge Redson Kapindu is presiding over the matter.
Khato Civils, a construction and engineering company headquartered in South Africa and owned by a billionaire Simbi Phiri businessman whose father is from Malawi, joined the case as an interested party after some civil society organisations (CSOs) dragged government, alongside LWB, to court.
MLS. in its application for the judicial review, made LWB, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, the director of Environmental Affairs and Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining as respondents in that order.
Khato Civils had argued earlier that MLS still had administrative remedies to address its concerns, adding the facts relied upon when the lawyers’ body filed its application for the judicial review were incorrect and misleading.
The Khato lawyers argued the MLS based its case on a wrong assumption that Khato Civils were oblivious of the contents of the Environmental Management Act and had intended not to comply with the legal requirements or unmindful of compliance of the same.
The court, however, after analysing arguments from both sides, ruled in favour of MLS.
In May, Khato Holdings Limited unveiled to the media multi-million kwacha machinery for the construction of the pipeline from Lake Malawi in Salima to Lilongwe to ease water problems in Lilongwe, disclosing that $13 million (K9.8 billion) had already been invested in the project.
President Peter Mutharika in July hit at development partners for allegedly interfering in the project’s implementation.
But Mutharika did not name the development partners allegedly pushing for the halting of the project whose setbacks have included lack of an environmental and social impact assessment (Esia) and feasibility study before the contract was awarded to Khato Civils Limited.