President Joyce Banda is caught up in a legal land battle between Press Agriculture and Deloitte & Touché (Malawi) on one hand and Ralph Tseka on the other.
According to court documents, Tseka accuses Press Agriculture and Deloitte & Touche (Malawi) of selling 260-hactare Anchor Farm—formerly Nantipwiri—in Thyolo that he says was already offered to him.
Tseka’s lawyer Maxwell Tembo claims that when Press Agriculture and Deloitte & Touché (Malawi) withdrew the offer from his client, they sold the land to government.
Nation on Sunday now understands that the land in question is the same that President Banda, on November 6 last year, directed that it be distributed to landless people of Thyolo under one of her many pet projects—the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction (PIoPHR).
At the time of the presidential directive, Tseka had already sought a court injunction stopping Deloitte as first defendants and Press Agriculture as second defendants from withdrawing the sell from him and offering it to another party. Delloite are Press Agriculture’s advisers in the transactions.
But despite the court order, Deloitte and Press Agriculture apparently proceeded to transact on the land, according to lawyer Tembo.
This prompted Tseka to move the High Court to commence motion for committal to prison of Deloitte resident partner Nkondola Uka and Press Agriculture general manager Albert Nkhono. Hearing of the court starts on January 30 2014.
Tembo confirmed on Tuesday that he is commencing the criminal case of contempt on a civil case number 538 of 2012 against Uka and Nkhono for withdrawing the offer to Tseka.
According to Tembo, Press Agriculture offered the land to Tseka but later withdrew it, forcing Tseka to seek an injunction against the move. Justice Rachel Sikwese granted the injunction.
In a sworn affidavit, Tembo argued that the court had ordered an interlocutory injunction to restrain the defendants from withdrawing an offer to sell Nantipwiri Estate to the plaintiff or otherwise rescinding the contract of sale of Nantipwiri Estate to the plaintiff.
The affidavit reads in part: “The court made an order of stay of Justice Sikwese refusing to grant an injunction to restrain the defendants from withdrawing an offer to sell Nantipwiri Estate or otherwise rescinding the contract of sale of Nantipwiri Estate to the plaintiff and a copy was served on the defendants.
“Although the said order was served on the defendants, I am informed that the first and second defendants acting through resident partner Mr. N.T Uka and general manager Mr. Albert Nkhono have proceeded to sell the estate which is the subject of this case.
“The conduct of Mr. N.T Uka and Mr. Albert Nkhono amounts to contemptuous disregard of the court’s order with impunity as if they are above the law.,” reads the affidavit in part.
Both Nkhono and Uka on Wednesday said they were aware of the court proceedings and that the matter was in the hands of their legal teams who, they said, will defend their decision in court.
However, Thyolo district commissioner Bennet Nkasala said on Wednesday that he was not aware that the said land was under any dispute and that government would proceed with the President’s directive to distribute the land to the poor.
“What we know is that government has allocated the land to the landless under the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction,” he said.
Nkasala added that the case does not concern his office, saying: “I feel the matter is between Press Agriculture and the initial purported buyers. The court will determine how the two will sort out each other.”
Special political and communication assistant to the President, Elias Wakuda Kamanga, said he was not aware that the said land was entangled in a court case and asked for more time to consult on the matter.
“I have to consult. I have to talk to the DC of Thyolo and the subject [President Banda] and the consultations might take some time,” he said.