There is a new twist to a court case of Kachoka Village which was sold in Mchinji District as government says the offer letter was issued erroneously and will be revoked.
Government’s position on the matter comes at a time when the High Court in Lilongwe is scheduled to rule on the case which will decide the future of over 200 families facing eviction following the sale of their village.
Kachoka village sits on a piece of land sold to a businessperson Frank Jailosi Chisakalimi by a son to a late chief from the area, who according to the defendants, claimed that it belonged to his father.
A letter Weekend Nation has seen from Ministry of Lands to Legal Aid Bureau (LAB)—an office that is representing the villagers—stated that the land was sold when the term of lease had expired.
LAB had written the ministry to seek clarity on original documents of the land.
In its response, the ministry through Ref.No.CR/MC/739/7 dated September 28 2020 and signed by acting regional commissioner for Lands Serah Nzunga Mwakikunga reads:
“This office has gone through all the documents to Mr Frank Jailosi Chisaka Alimi on this piece of land on April 27 which by the facts presented by your office; the offer letter will be revoked immediately. Take note that revocation of the offer letter will result in the status of the land reverting back to its original status.”
The letter adds that being a deceased estate the Administrator General should advise or take up the matter and that fees and duties paid by the buyer should be reimbursed.
“This office will not issue title deeds on this piece of land as requested and will proceed to revoke the offer letter through the minister responsible for land matters,” reads the letter.
In an interview on this week, LAB deputy director Trouble Kalua indicated that his office will pursue the application to set aside judgement.
According to him, if the ministry revokes the offer letter, it will mean that the applicant will have no basis to maintain the court case.
Said Kalua: “More aptly we will pursue application to set aside judgement so that we put a defence and the matter is decided by the courts on merits.
“If the revocation comes along it will make our case stronger as the applicant will have no basis to sue.”
Supreme Court of Appeal and High Court registrar Agnes Patemba said the court is yet to set the date of hearing the matter which is now in court.
Court documents we have seen show that lease for the land of the village known as Kachoka was issued on February 18 1991and a memorandum to sell the land was signed on June 17 2019 while the new owner obtained the offer of the lease on April 27 2020.
Following the sale there have been tension in the area with villagers refusing to vacate the land, hence forcing the new landlord to seek court redress and summons against the villagers in May this year. The villagers are supposed to furnish the court documents showing their alleged ownership of the land within 28 days.
Reads the summons in part: ” If you fail to satisfy the claim to file a defence and list of documents or to return the response within the time stated …, the claimant may proceed with the claim and judgement may be entered against you without further notice.”
The defendants, however, filed summons to set aside judgement on July 9 2020.
On June 29 2020 the claimants obtained an enforcement order for possession of the land. On September 9 2020, the defendants’ lawyers filed summons for stay.
In a telephone interview group village head Kachoka, who is among the evictees, explained that the village was sold together with a graveyard and a primary school called Chimwankhuku.
According to the chief, the village was established in 1821 and government recognises it as he and other four chiefs in the village receive honoraria from government.
Said Group Kachoka: “The late chief signed the lease on behalf of everyone in the village. It is surprising that his son sold the land behind our backs. We suspect that he did not do this on his own. There are people at the district council and other senior chiefs who are part of this scheme.”
The claimant’s lawyer Khumbo Soko in a separate interview indicated that the court is yet to communicate when ruling on the matter will be made.
The case is being presided over by Judge Charles Mkandawire.