Malawi court rebuffs Mulli protégé Kanyoza in Chitakale Estate Case

The Constitutional Court sitting in Blantyre has rebuffed businessman Davie Kanyoza and a protégé of the once mighty business magnate Leston Mulli from joining a case where Mulanje charity worker Mary Woodworth is contesting a government decision to lease her piece of land to the businessman.

A panel of three High Court Judges consisting of Justices Healy Potani, John Chirwa and Micheal Mtambo wondered why Kanyoza wants to join the constitutional case when he was not the one who made a decision to grant him the lease.

Fast-facts

The piece of land which was given to Kanyoza by the then Minister of Lands John Bande (now Minister of Mines) was already declared to have belonged to Woodworth and her aunt Lisnet Gremu by both the High Court and the Malawi Supreme Court after a protracted legal battle of the land between Mulli and the two women.

Lawyer Chancy Gondwe briefing Mulli

But in a twist of events, government, under the late Bingu Mutharika regime, grabbed the land from Woodworth and leased it to Kanyoza, a business partner and protégé of Mulli.

However, Woodworth and Gremu, who run an orphanage in Mulanje called Friends of Mulanje Orphanage (FOMO),  though lawyers Felix Tandwe and Patrick Mpaka asked the Chief Justice to declare the matter as a constitutional case where they want the court to declare that the decision by Minister Bande to grant the lease to Kanyoza was unconstitutional.

It also took the Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo almost one year to certify the case as a constitutional matter.

But Kanyoza rushed to court where he wanted to join the case as an interested party, which the Constitutional Court rebuffed him.

Court’s determination

“We would hasten to express our utter surprise in the interested party’s manoeuvres to join these proceedings. Does he want to join as an applicant or a responded? He can obviously not join as a responded as he never made any decision the subject of these proceedings. He surely does not crave to join as an applicant,” said Justice Potani on behalf of the three judges.

The judges said Kanyoza’s lawyer argued that as a leaseholder to the land, Kanyoza need not to be shut out in the proceedings.

“To be candid to the interested party, he should have done a little home work and appreciated the legal position that these are judicial review proceedings which are unique in a sense in as far as the parties are concerned,” said Justice Potani.

“The case at hand is one, in our considered view, where the respondents (minister of lands and Commissioner for lands South)) can adequately answer for their decisions and actions in giving rise to the proceedings. It does not require the interested party to give a helping hand to the respondents. Sadly the respondents have kept mum on the interested party’s purported interest in the matter,” added Potani.

“We would, in the end result, allow the applicant’s plea and grant them the discharge of the order joining one Davie Charles Kanyoza as an interested party in these proceedings and further order that the said Davie Charles Kanyoza be struck out as party to these proceedings. We condemn the interested party to costs incidental to the motion,” said Justice Potani.

Lawyers reaction

In an interview following the court ruling,  Chancy Gondwe  who represented Kanyoza, said he will consult his client on the way forward.

“There is still room for him to join the case but we have to discuss on how best to go about it after I read the judgment thoroughly,” said Gondwe.

While Mpaka said following the ruling, Kanyoza will have to meet all the legal costs incurred.

“We are happy now that we can commence the judicial review proceedings. It was obvious case because it is all about the decision made by the minister and commissioner of lands and that has nothing to do with Mr. Kanyoza. That is why we asked the court to remove him as part of the proceedings,” Mpaka said.

The Constitutional Court is expected to commence the judicial review on February 11, to examine how the minister exercised his powers to lease the said land to Kanyoza, whose long time friend to Leston Mulli who own Chitakale Plantations Limited.

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