Twenty-seven years after the fall of the one-party system of government, the Majihaheni Gondwe family is still fighting for K200 million compensation for abuses suffered and loss of property.
Steven Majihaheni Gondwe’s case is among 20 000 cases that were registered and assessed for compensation by the now-defunct National Compensation Tribunal (NCT) which wound up at the expiry of its 10- year constitutional mandate.
In 1998, the tribunal, according to case files we have seen, valued the Gondwes’ lost property—which included motor vehicles and houses—at K208 million. However, only K20 000 was paid to the family in 2001.
Since then, the family has been pushing for the balance through court battles.
In an interview last week, Bright Theu, lawyer representing the family, said he was currently following up on the family’s appeal case which he said has stagnated in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal since 2016.
Besides the court case, the lawyer said he was seeking to engage the office of the Attorney General to consider an out-of-court settlement.
Said Theu: “The state of the case is that it is on appeal. I have been to court to search for files so that I can appreciate what is on the file, but they have not located the file yet and they said they are still searching for it, which is curious but understandable because it’s a case that happened years ago.
“Interestingly, his file at NCT also went missing, but fortunately he kept some documentation about the valuation of lost property in 1998 which was K208 million.
“So, for now, we will be waiting to have the appeal concluded and, if successful, have them get their compensation. If we don’t succeed, we will look at other remedies.”
He said the figure could be more as the K208 million valuation was done in 1998.
Steven Majihaheni Gondwe, according to case files at the Office of the Ombudsman, was imprisoned in 1981 and had his property confiscated under the Forfeiture Act.
The case file indicates that Gondwe, in 1981, in celebration of his son’s wedding, bought many crates of drinks from Southern Bottlers, leading to a shortage of the fizzy beverages in Mzuzu.
“Driven by jealousy and malice, dad was branded by his critics as a showy person and a ‘rebel’ who bought out the Mzuzu quota of the drinks to make people blame the scarcity of the drinks on the leadership,” reads one of the files.
His son, Leonard Gondwe, corroborated the version in the file. His father died and the family is pushing for the matter.
In 2001, Gondwe was paid K750 000 compensation for false imprisonment following a court ruling and was also awarded K20 000 the same year by the tribunal as part payment for loss of property.
The assessed property list indicates that Gondwe owned houses in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Rumphi. He also owned seven motor vehicles, including three Mercedes Benz cars and maize mills.
In October 2017, the Ombudsman released an investigative report Malawi’s Unhealed Wounds, which exposed how politically-connected individuals abused funds meant to compensate scores of victims of the one-party State.
In the report, the Ombudsman captured 15 647 cases as in need of compensation out of which 1 293 were verified, meaning they had all supporting documents as evidence. The report showed that 555 were fully paid while 5 650, which include Gondwe’s case, were partially compensated.
According to the Ombudsman’s report, most victims proposed figures between K600 000 and K20 million for compensation.
In a written response yesterday, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma said they raised the matter with President Lazarus Chakwera during their meeting in July this year.
She said she stands by the resolution of her report as the “only sensible way of putting this matter to rest”.
In an interview last week, Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe said the direction will have to come from the Office of the President and Cabinet because compensation under the tribunal was time-bound. He said only a policy direction will guide on how to handle these claims.
President Lazarus Chakwera, during his maiden State of the Nation Address last week, hinted at establishing a commission that will handle matters relating to claims for compensation for abuses suffered during the one-party rule of Malawi Congress Party between 1964 and 1994.