Hearing of former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s property dispute case between his family and current administrators, National Bank of Malawi (NBM), is expected to start today at the High Court in Blantyre with around 10 lawyers ready to outwit each other.
The court assigned Justice Dingiswayo Madise to preside over the case in which NBM sued Banda’s family conglomerate, Chamwabvi Investment Limited, and other private companies over alleged dubious sale of part of the former president’s assets.
The property under debate is farm land of about 4 636 hectares operating under the Shire Valley Cattle Ranch situated at Paiva Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Ngabu in Chikwawa.
According to court documents of case number 53 of 2017, NBM is accusing Chamwabvi Investment Limited of fraudulently selling the land to Agri-Courier Limited and Bio-Farms Limited who later put it up for sale to Fisd Company Limited.
Besides, Chamwabvi Investment Limited, Agri-Courier Limited and Bio-Farms Limited, the bank also dragged to court government through Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for erroneous issuance of land documentation.
Last year, the estate’s administrators obtained an injunction from the High Court demanding that Agri-Courier, Bio-Farms and Fisd Limited companies all vacate the farm and stop carrying out any activity on it.
Happy Mwagomba is the lead counsel for NBM (claimant) with Oswald Mtupila representing Chamwabvi Investment Limited (first defendant). Agri-Courier and Bio-Farms Limited companies, who are second and third defendants, are being represented by Chagwamnjira and Company whose lead lawyer is Kuleza Phokoso.
The fourth defendants, Fisd Company Limited, has assembled three lawyers from different legal firms including the seasoned Wapona Kita, Gilbert Khonyongwa and Burton Phiri while the Attorney General’s (AG) chambers which is representing the Ministry of Lands (fifth defendants) has Lumbani Mwafulirwa.
Some of the lawyers confirmed in separate interviews at the weekend that trial of the case begins this morning with NBM parading its two witnesses.
But while confirming representing NBM, Mwagomba declined to comment saying he was not under instructions to do so.
“I am representing them but I don’t have any instructions to talk on their behalf,” he said.
But on his part, Mtupila also confirmed representing Chamwabvi but said “for fear of prejudice to the court proceedings” he was not in a position to give more details regarding the position taken by the family business.
He said: “Save to state that Chamwabvi denies having had title to the land and as such couldn’t sell to anyone.”
For Fisd, Khonyongwa said their client’s position was that they were a bona fide purchaser of the property having followed all necessary legal processes before procuring the land.
When contacted for comment, Phokoso, who is representingr Agri-Courier and Bio-Farms Limited companies simply said “we are ready for the trial”.
But spokesperson for Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Pirirani Masanjala, said the position the Attorney General was advancing on behalf of the Ministry of Lands was that administrators of Banda’s estate did not apply to obtain title over customary land.
The country’s founding president died some 20 years ago but the dispute about his estate fails to die.
NBM was appointed Banda’s estate administrators on November 8 2010 by the High Court following the long-standing infighting between the then administrators–Jane Dzanjalimodzi, Eunice Nsaliwa and Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira–among others.