Former minister of Local Government and Rural Development Trasizio Thom Gowelo has been taken to court alongside Blantyre City Council (BCC) over alleged unlawful acquisition of land belonging to another developer in the Blantyre central business district (CBD).
The piece of land under dispute is situated in Blantyre CBD on plot number BC 173 which used to house the popular Moti’s Mini Market shop at the corner of Haile Selassie and Mandala roads.8
The former minister, who is also Blantyre City West member of Parliament (MP) on Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket, has been taken to court by Malawi Sun Hotel and Conference Centre, previously known as Eclipse Limited, who claim lawful possession of the land.
The hotel has also taken to court BCC for allegedly leasing the piece of land to Gowelo while their existing leasehold interest was still in force.
Private practice lawyer Lusungu Gondwe, representing Malawi Sun Hotel and Conference Centre, yesterday confirmed that he was handling the matter, but declined to comment further, saying: “I am under no instructions to do so from my client.”
But court documents The Nation has seen show that the council leased the land to Gowelo on February 13 2015 for a period of 66 years.
An affidavit signed by Muhammed Ahmed, managing director of the hospitality facility, shows the company leased the land for 66 years from April 1 1960 to April 1 2026.
Further, the affidavit shows that the last valuation of the land conducted by property management and valuation firm Knight Frank on February 1 2015 put the land’s market value in the region of K194 million. However, Gowelo acquired it at K4.5 million.
According to the court documents, at the time of obtaining the land, Gowelo was the line minister to whom the council was reporting.
The affidavit further notes that BCC cancelled its lease in respect of the land around July 22 2015, but granted the same to Gowelo on February 13 2015, which was five months earlier.
Putting up its case, Malawi Sun Hotel further argues that it only learnt about a new lessee around October 2015 after the new developer cleared the land and erected a temporary fence.
Thus, the complainant feels the transaction was conducted in a manner that was “suspicious, irregular and in bad faith” which requires an investigation.
When contacted on the matter yesterday, Gowelo, sounding fully-charged, threatened to deal with The Nation while insisting that he bought the said plot when he was not a Cabinet minister.
He said: “You better be careful I will pull you in. I will pull Malawi Nation newspaper into this issue if you are not careful… But you better also check your records, I am ready for you young man. Ok.”
President Peter Mutharika dropped Gowelo from his Cabinet, alongside Paul Chibingu, then minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, on August 17 2015.