A former Maldeco Fisheries employee, claiming to have spent his retirement package and a K10 million bank loan on a fish farming project, seems to have lost everything in a land ownership wrangle.
Despite three court rulings in his favour, obtained over 10 years, Albert Viola’s fish ponds on a 3.30 hectare stretch in Chisegele Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mponda, Mangochi lie filled with soil.
Both Mangochi district commissioner (DC) and Controller of Lands advised him to file for contempt of court against the villagers, but he says besides having no money to engage lawyers, he is also fearing for his life and would love to be assisted differently by responsible government departments.
Meanwhile, the locals maintain Viola does not own the land in question.
Viola has been to Ministry of Lands, DC’s office in Mangochi and in and out of court since 2006 to fight for the land, which the Ministry of Lands clearly documented that it belongs to him but the villagers have always stood in his way.
With three court determinations in his favour, documents from Ministry of Lands, a letter from the DC certifying him as the bona fide owner of the land, Viola, even with intervention of police, claims he has all along failed to access his land.
Mangochi DC James Manyetera confirmed in an interview on Thursday that Viola and his brothers, who he said are rightful owners of the land under dispute, have indeed failed to access the land.
Manyetera said: “It is a long story. But the best they can do is to return to court and file for contempt of court. If the court finds guilty people that are stopping them from accessing their land, police, and not my office, would be empowered to enforce the court order.
“But as things are, without anyone in contempt of court, it is difficult for police, or my office, to do anything about it.”
But Viola, who is based in Mangochi, said if he files for contempt of court so that the people he is in conflict with get arrested, he would be putting his life in danger. As such, he is banking on responsible government departments to assist him in a different way. He could not be drawn to say how else he wants to be assisted.
On the other hand, he said he no longer has money to hire a lawyer to keep fighting the villagers.
“I have exhausted all finances. I put all my retirement package into this fish project, which amid the dispute, I was forced to abandon and fill up the ponds with soil.
“I took bank loans of more than K10 million, and borrowed money from my brother to get the project to the level I abandoned it. All that money has gone down the drain. Honestly, this is my land as the courts and documents confirm,” he insisted.
The former Maldeco Fisheries employee said after villagers—led by Msusa Bwanali and Wasili Anderson—forced him to fill up with soil the fish ponds which are adjacent to Mulangeni Holiday Resort, he has used all legal means available and relevant government departments, but the villagers have, with impunity, defied authorities.
Contrary to Viola’s claim, Bwanali, in an interview on Friday, said he never paid any tambala for the land, except for hiring two vehicles when Bwanali’s two sisters were being initiated (kulowa chinamwali) back in the 1990s.
Bwanali said: “This land belonged to my father, who is still alive. He [Viola] was offered to buy it at K335 000 but he never paid anything. After he hired the vehicles, he said this money would be deducted from the sale.
“He also promised my father that he would send me for a mechanical and engineering course, to deduct the money from the sale of the land, but all this never materialised.” n