The High Court in Zomba is set to rule in a matter where the Malawi Law Society (MLS) applied to stop a $500 million (K400 billion) Lilongwe-Salima water project for contravening the Environmental Management Act.
Judge Redson Kapindu heard the MLS applications recently why it should be granted the injunction to stop the project and also Khato Civils (Pty) Limited, contractor of the project, why the application for the injunction and judicial review be dismissed.
Khato Civils, a construction and
engineering company headquartered in South Africa and owned by a Malawian billionaire Simbi Phiri, is appearing on the court record as Khato Civils Proprietary Limited.
One of the lawyers for Khato Civils, Frank Mbeta, said in an interview on Thursday they were pleased the court appreciated sufficient interest their client has in the matter, being a contractor of the water supply project.
“We presented our case. MLS presented theirs. What it means is that if we are successful at this stage to have MLS’ applications for an injunction and judicial review dismissed, it would mean the end of the matter and our client would be allowed to proceed with the project,” Mbeta said.
The MLS in its application for the judicial review made Lilongwe Water Board (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.
In the affidavit Mbeta filed before the court. Khato Civils argued it was going to be fair and just that they be heard before any determination on the matter is made.
Khato Civils lawyers also argued 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 applicant [MLS] had filed the application for leave to commence judicial review proceedings prematurely before it had gathered all information, analysed the same and comprehended the stage at which the project was and thereafter make an informed decision,” they argued.
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.
They argued MLS’ concerns were unfounded and could no longer stand, adding in the premises, there were no sufficient reasons to merit the proceedings of the case for a substantive hearing.
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. n