Mary Woodworth, a British national involved in a protracted land legal tussle in Mulanje, has sued the Ministry of Lands and the Land Commissioner for issuing a lease on a land she owned.
Government on October 7 2011 issued a lease of 0.4340 hectares to businessperson Davie Kanyoza after it issued acquisition notice on September 28 2010 of 0.7225 hectares, being the land under dispute between Woodworth and Chitakale Plantations.
The developments followed WoodworthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s successful court battle in November 2009 when the High Court in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s commercial city, Blantyre, ruled in her favour, declaring that the land belonged to her and another defendant Lisnet Grem, and not Chitakale Plantations, a subsidiary of Mulli Brothers, now known as MBL Holdings, as was claimed.
Chitakale was also unsuccessful when it appealed at the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal which upheld the lower courtÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s judgement on June 24 2010 that the land was not part of Chitakale Plantations.
In the fresh legal battles, Woodworth, through her lawyer Patrick Mpaka, according to court records, went to the High Court where she succeeded as an order was issued on November 18 2011, suspending the lease government issued to Kanyoza.
The High Court on December 7 2011, the records show, also dismissed an injunction Kanyoza took against 15 people whom Woodworth had sent to work on the land. Essentially, the current order stops anyone from using the land, including Woodworth, who is director of Friends of Mulanje (Fomo), until the matter is determined.
In the case in which Woodworth has sued the Ministry of Lands and the Land Commissioner, the matter awaits the Chief Justice to certify whether the matter is a constitutional one requiring a three-judge panel to decide on it in a judicial review, or to be referred to High Court before a single judge.
Woodworth, according to the records, is arguing that the Constitution was not followed in the manner government repossessed the land and the lease itself.
She argues that if government repossesses land, it must give it out for public utility, but in this case, the land was issued to an individual, Kanyoza, for private use. She also argues there must be enough public notice, which she argues was not the case, and compensation, which she says she never got.
There have been other court battles surrounding the same, such as one at the Mulanje MagistrateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Court where Woodworth was accused of trespass which she got arrested for. She had to surrender her British passport to court to ensure she attended trial, but another High Court order suspended the criminal proceedings and ordered that the passport be returned to her.
The passport was, however, not returned. When Woodworth wanted to travel to the United Kingdom, the British High Commission in Lilongwe processed her new travel documents. She is currently in the UK.