The Ministry of Lands says it is investigating the alleged grabbing of a 227-hectare estate in Kasungu which a family has been fighting to reclaim for 25 years.
In a telephone interview yesterday, the ministry’s Principal Secretary (PS) Bernard Sande, said they have intervened in the situation after the family approached them.
The estate, at Chaima Village—a few kilometres from Guma Village in Traditional Authority Santhe (T/A) was sold in 1995 at K2.5 million but later the transaction was reversed.
According to court documents, the land belongs to late Reverend Jekapu Phiri and was apparently sold to Steve Mtupanyama Chalanda, who allegedly only paid K230 000.
But despite the transaction being reversed, it later transpired that Chalanda had apparently obtained title deeds of the land from the ministry, a development that the family expressed dissatisfaction with.
But according to Sande yesterday, while the ministry has launched investigations into the matter, they are also consulting on the way forward since documents, including title deeds show the rightful owner of the land.
Said the PS: “We are investigating and we are also consulting to see the way forward. We hope that at the end of the day, justice prevails in the matter.”
According to him, the ministry also plans to bring both parties to a roundtable.
However, Sande did not clearly indicate when the ministry will bring together all parties in the matter and how long they intend to carry out their investigations.
According to the civil cause number 744 of 2016, before Phiri passed away in 2013, he appointed his children Jekapu Phiri Junior, Mirriam Jekapu Phiri and Lunati Jekapu Phiri as his administrators.
However, the court documents show that things took an interesting turn when Chalanda forged the signature of Traditional Authority Chaima which was later exposed by a police handwriting expert.
Since then, the family has been fighting with Chalanda in court until a final judgement in 2016 ordering that the estate be given back to the family.
In an interview on Monday, Mirriam claimed despite the court order giving them relief, Chalanda has on numerous occasions frustrated their efforts in getting back the estate.
She said: “We have faced all sorts of torture on the matter and we have also spent so much money hiring lawyers so that justice prevails.
“I even had to sell my house which was valued at K78 million to pay all five lawyers that we have had up until the final judgment was delivered.”
She said their court files went missing on four occasion just days before judgement was to be pronounced.
According to Mirriam, such setbacks led them to revert the matter to the T/A where on the last occasion, they were advised to seek assistance from the Ministry of Lands.
But while they were lucky in the 2016 ruling, Chalanda made an appeal which was later dismissed by Judge Charles Mkandawire who was handling the case at the Lilongwe Registry.
In his appeal, Chalanda wanted the court to, among others, declare him rightful owner of the estate, grant him a permanent order restraining the family from going to the estate, consider the family’s actions as trespassing and pay costs and damages for trespassing and damaged property.
However, on November 6 2017, the family filed their affidavits opposing the application on the basis that they have letters of administration for limited grant and that Chalanda was not proprietor of the estate as well as that he had forged some signatures as per a handwriting expert.
The family also argued that the late Phiri never handed title documents to and that they had tendered a letter dated June 20 2008 from regional lands commissioner (Centre ) where it was resolved that the land be given back to them.