About 65 houses belonging to the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) risk being demolished for being built on a private land, it has been reported.
According to published reports, MHC is alleged to have constructed two-bedroom semi-detached houses at Ngumbe in Blantyre on a freehold farming land.
In a story carried by Weekend Nation newspaper, the land belongs to the family of Costas and Samantha Scordis trading under Chitseko Estate Limited.
It is reported that in 2016 MHC obtained a bank loan amounting to about K3.5 billion for construction of the housing units, but ignored a professional advice not to proceed with the project on the land due to ownership issue.
This disregard compelled the Scordis family to file a suit against the parastatal in 2018 demanding a permanent injunctive order stopping it and its agents from claiming ownership of the land, trespassing and encroachment and building of houses.
“The family further demanded MHC and its agents to remove any structures built on the land and “if they do not remove the claimant [Scordis] would demolish and remove all such structures at the cost of the defendants [MHC],” reports the paper.
The Scordis claimed they suffered loss because of the trespass and encroachment on their 53 hectares piece of land for which they were seeking damages for.
The family further alleged despite showing MHC title documents of the land including copies of the maps the corporation insisted owning it although did not produce any document, a claim MHC has objected.
MHC acting chief executive officer Jordan Chipatala opted for public relations officer (PRO) Ernestina Lunguzi to comment but did not do so.
It is further reported that in a bid to resolve the dispute, Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa and his deputy Abida Mia initiated a meeting with the Scordis family and instructed the surveyor general Julius Chisi to ascertain whether MHC had indeed built the houses on land it does not own.
Msukwa did not immediately comment but Mia said she was aware of the matter , saying she could not comment anything since the matter was in court but said “it will be sorted out amicably.”
Lawyer for the Scordis family and Chitseko Estate Limited, Kuleza Phokoso, when contacted confirmed the meetings between the aggrieved family, Msukwa, Mia and other senior officials from the Ministry of Lands.
Phokoso also said the meetings bordered on an out of court settlement, which the ministry was brokering on behalf of MHC.
The lawyer declined to give details on the issue of out of court settlement which was being discussed insisting he did not have instructions to do so from his clients.
However, he stressed: “Our client’s position in and out of court is that their land was wrongfully expropriated and their constitutional right to property was violated. This was actually vindicated by the surveyor general’s report on a retracement survey which they conducted.”
Following the ministers’ instructions, the surveyor general sent a team of surveyors led by the deputy surveyor general Omoha Naison Mbalame who reportedly validated that the land in question did not belong to MHC.
Chisi confirmed that his office was requested to carry out a retracement survey of the estate, however, he could not be drawn to divulging the findings.
He is quoted saying: “The survey was done and a report was submitted… Unfortunately, since the issue is still in court, I cannot share the report. Giving answers to a questionnaire you sent means revealing what is on the report.”
A letter dated October 5, 2020 from Chagwamnjira & Company (former lawyers for Chitseko Estate Limited) to Minister of Lands calls for urgent follow up meeting and settlement meetings of all the parties to discuss the way forward bordering on assessment of losses, assessment of damages, the value of the land lost and all the remedies claimed.
“We would like to also communicate that it is our client’s position that all the new houses built by Malawi Housing Corporation on their land must not be rented out or occupied or sold until a settlement is agreed between the parties, paid and complied with by Malawi Housing Corporation to avoid bringing third parties on the land and into these issues,” reads the letter.
In the letter, the lawyers further suggested a schedule for discussions and settlement in the matter by October 23 2020 which has not been implemented yet.
However, whilst awaiting the outcome of the out of court settlement, the Scordis family engaged the estate valuer, Broll Malawi, to price their purported land and property mid last year.
Broll Malawi managing director Ricky Kantema confirmed in an interview on Wednesday having been engaged by the Scordis family for estimation of the land.
“We did the valuation of the properties and the land itself having told that there was a dispute. The report was done and duly submitted to Chitseko Estate. Basically the valuation was done to aid the discussion they have with MHC.
“However, since this is a matter of client relationship kind of engagement I am not in a position to disclose the content of the report because it will be a breach of trust and breach of duty of care in as far as my client is concerned,” said Kantema.
However, investigations by the paper indicate Broll Malawi valued the said land at K2.5 billion which MHC has to pay as compensation or else demolish its houses.
Other documents show trouble for MHC begun in 1992 when it purportedly bought 1022 acres of land from Ngumbe Estate Limited then for one million dollars, equivalent to K1.7 million at that time.
However, unknown to MHC, about 435.791 acres of the land out of the 1022 had already been sold in 1971 by previous owners before Ngumbe Estate Limited sold it to the corporation.
The documents further show MHC then proceeded to sell part of the land to Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) who erected its transmitting station before actual owners, Lunzu Estate Limited, came in to protest and claimed back the land.
In a letter dated November 12 1993 shows MHC admitted being “duped” in the transaction that had a defective title.
“We wish to confirm that on the basis of available evidence Lunzu Estate Limited appears to have prior title and that the sale to Malawi Housing Corporation had a latent defect.
“In this connection, we would appreciate your patience [at least in the next two weeks] for us to sort out the defect with Ngumbe Estates Limited who purported to be the owners of Lunzu Estate,” reads part of the letter signed by Gerry Nkhoma, then MHC corporate secretary.
The fate of the 65 houses, whose construction works were completed almost a year ago remains at a standstill as MHC is failing to either rent them out or put them on the market due to the dispute.
MHC is a statutory body established in 1964 by an Act of Parliament to construct houses, develop plots and maintain existing houses and plots.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :