Malawi Constitutional Court gives back land to Woodworth: Lawyer Chancy Gondwe has no valid licence

The Constitutional Court sitting in Blantyre has given back a piece of land which government grabbed from two Mulanje women who run an orphanage and gave it businessman Davie Kanyoza saying the act was unconstitutional.

The decision by three High Court Judges, Justices Healy Potani, Dr. Micheal Mtambo and John Chirwa upholds both the High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal decisions which ruled that the land, at Chitakale in Mulanje belongs charity worker Mary Woodworth and her Auntie Lisnet Gremu.

The two women who run an Orphanage called Friends of Mulanje Orphanage (FOMO) which looks after more than 5,000 Orphans in Mulanje, have been fighting with business magnate Leston Mulli over the piece of land but despite the two court rulings Mulli refused to let the land go.

Mulli, who was so influential during the late Bingu Mutharika regime is said to have used his political muscle to get back the land through the backdoor.

Woodworth: Wins case
Woodworth: Wins case

What surprised many was that although the highest court of the land, Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the women, the then Minister of Lands (now Minister of Energy) John Bande grabbed the land from the two women and gave it to Davie Kanyoza, a business protégé of Mulli.

“It is adjudged that a declaration BE and is HEREBY MADE that the said purported compulsory acquisition was not for public utility and was and remains unconstitutional,” said the judges in their brief ruling on the matter on Tuesday.

Kanyoza had earlier on applied to the court to stop the hearing because he wanted to appeal against an earlier decision of the court rebuffing him from joining the case.

However, when the case came up for hearing, it was noted that his lawyer Chancy Gondwe did not have a valid license to practice before Malawian courts and Kanyoza was advised to either let his lawyer get proper papers or hire new lawyers.

On Tuesday, Gondwe was yet to renew his practicing license and this forced the judges to ask in open court whether Kanyoza was around and if he had hired new lawyers.

There was no response as Kanyoza was not present in court and the judges asked lawyer Patrick Mpaka representing the two women to go ahead with his application.

Mpaka told the judges that his application was against the Attorney General who was not present and decided not to defend the application to declare Bande’s action unconstitutional.

“It is adjudged that a permanent order of injunction BE and is HEREBY granted restraining the Respondents by themselves or their servants or agents including but not limited to the recipient of the Respondents purported lease of 7th October 2011 Mr. David Charles Kanyoza and his agents or servants, from accessing or using or in any way dealing with the said 0.4340 hectares of land known as plot no. 60 at Chitakale Trading Centre in Mulanje District as described in deed no. 85693 or any part thereof,” said the judges.

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