As exposure of wastage, disrespect for rule of law and undue decisions keep unfolding, Weekend Nation can reveal that 65 houses belonging to Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) risk being demolished for being built on private land.
MHC is alleged to have constructed two-bedroom semi-detached houses at Ngumbe in Blantyre on a freehold farming land belonging to the family of Costas and Samantha Scordis, trading under Chitseko Estate Limited.
Our investigations indicate that in 2016 MHC obtained a bank loan amounting to about K3.5 billion for construction of the housing units but ignored a professional advice not to proceed with the project on the land due to ownership issues.
This disregard compelled the Scordis family to file a suit against the parastatal in 2018, demanding a permanent injunctive order stopping it and its agents from claiming ownership of the land, trespassing and encroachment and building of houses.
The family further demanded MHC and its agents to remove any structures built on the land and “if they do not remove the claimant [Scordis] would demolish and remove all such structures at the cost of the defendants [MHC].”
The Scordis claimed they suffered loss because of the trespass and encroachment on their 53 hectares of land for which they were seeking damages for.
The family further alleged that despite showing MHC title documents and copies of the maps, the corporation insisted owning it although it did not produce any document, a claim MHC has objected.
When contacted on Wednesday, MHC acting chief executive officer Jordan Chipatala referred Weekend Nation to public relations officer Ernestina Lunguzi, who promised to respond, but did not after several reminders.
But in a bid to resolve this dispute, Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa and his deputy Abida Mia initiated a meeting with the Scordis family and instructed the surveyor general Julius Chisi to ascertain whether MHC had indeed built the houses on land it does not own.
Msukwa did not pick up his phone during the week after several attempts and he did not respond to our messages, too, but Mia said she was aware of the matter but she could not comment anything since the it was in court. She, however, assured that “the matter would be sorted out amicably”.
The Scordis family and Chitseko Estate Limited lawyer Kuleza Phokoso, when contacted confirmed the meetings between the aggrieved family, Msukwa, Mia and other senior officials from the Ministry of Lands.
He said the meetings bordered on an out-of-court settlement, which the ministry was brokering on behalf of MHC.
Phokoso declined to give details on the issue of the out-of-court settlement, insisting he did not have instructions to do so.
However, he said: “Our client’s position in an out-of-court is that their land was wrongfully expropriated and their constitutional right to property was violated. This was actually vindicated by the Surveyor General’s report on a retracement survey which they conducted.”
But commenting on the matter, insolvency practitioner and legal commentator on land matters John Kalampa said if, indeed, MHC knew the land did not belong to them and still proceeded to construct the houses, then “it simply means they are liable”.
Said Kalampa: “Chitseko Estate Limited has a range of remedies in such a case. Such remedies include vacant repossession of the land, damages or profits for trespass from the time MHC begun trespassing, damages for loss of use of land and, indeed, legal costs.”
Following the minister’s instructions, the Surveyor General sent a team of surveyors, led by the deputy surveyor general Omoha Naison Mbalame, who reportedly validated that the land in question did not belong to MHC.