A sugarcane farmer in Dwangwa, Nkhotakota district has spent the last six years hiring Lawyers and launching a scathing court battle trying to prevent an 89 year old woman from getting back the three hectares of land which he grabbed from her in 2011.
In December, 2016 the High Court of Malawi, sitting in Mzuzu, dismissed an action brought by the Businessman, Lois Madikhula against Mary Goba and her 57 year old daughter arguing there is no evidence that Madikhula acquired the land legitimately.
Mudikhula first brought the case at the Nkhunga Magistrate Court in Dwangwa and lost the case. Instead of appealing, he applied for an injunction at the High Court.
Now the frail Granny, who is traumatised by both the 250km journeys to the Court in Mzuzu and the prospect that if she dies then her survivors will also endure the destitution and the poverty she endured, said she is heartbroken.
“I don’t know if this Madikhula has a human heart. How can he do this to us after all we did to him when he came to our area,” she told Nyasa Times.
However, Madikhula has kept the litigation process running by applying for another injunction to push away Mary Goba.
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and Youth Watch Society (YOWSO) who have been supporting Mary Goba’s case said they are challenging the latest injunction saying Madikhula is taking advantage of Mary Goba’s vulnerability.
In her earliersubmissions to the Court, the Octogenarian testified that Madikhula did not treat her family with respect or worth of human beings saying he arbitrarily and illegally took over the only property which was their source of income and livelihood.
Goba also said Madikhula, who had been her neighbour for about 20 yearsknew very well that she relied on that piece of land to grow and sell sugarcane to earn a living.
Judge Dingiswayo Madise quashed Madikhula’s claim that Dwangwa Cane Growers Trust allocated him the land under a defunct programme that was run by the European Union to empower small scale sugarcane out growers in 2010.
“This case perfectly illustrates the plight of women in Malawi who are often arbitrarily deprived of property and related economic activities and financial independence”, YOWSO Executive Director,Muteyu Banda said.
Madise’s ruling also indicates President Peter Mutharika’s assertions in 2015 with the BBC in which he vehemently argued that there was no land grabbing in Malawi.
During the interview, the BBC cited a Nyasa Times article which indicated for 35 years now, more than 400 subsistence farmers at Chisita in Malawi’s central region have been traversing the country’s courts, nongovernmental organisations and the offices of the Ombudsman in a bid to reclaim 600 hectares of land, which Illovo Malawi occupied in 1979.
“You have to be very careful, very careful with these publications including Nyasa Times,” said the stern faced Mutharika.
While Mutharika is defiant, a May 2015 report by Action Aid disclosed that his government agreed to ‘release’ 200,000 hectares of land for large-scale commercial agriculture under the New Alliance.
Ironically, Malawi’s National Export Strategy, whose recommendations are incorporated into the New Alliance Cooperation Framework,allocates one million hectares to commercial farming, representing more than 26% of the country’s arable land.
The goal of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN) — initiated in 2012 by the G8, the club of the world’s wealthiest industrial nations — is to lift 50-million people out of poverty in 11 African countries within ten years through public private partnerships, or PPPs.
It brings together the G8 member states with a who’s who of multinational business: Nestlé, Heineken, Coca-Cola, Bayer, Syngenta, Monsanto, Standard Bank.
SALC Lawyer Brigadier Siachitema said the High Court ruling sends a clear message to national elites that property grabbing will not be tolerated.
“This increasing phenomenon of land seizure by national elites has devastating consequences on vulnerable groups, especially women and children, including the loss of livelihood and chronic food insecurity,” Siachitema said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :