Petroda, Maranatha’s Keza battle rages on: One arrested, City Council blamed for mess

The battle between Petroda Malawi Limited (PML) and Maranatha International Academy over Keza Office Park in Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre appears far from over.

PML, owners of the office park, have been fighting to have Maranatha, the tenant, exit the complex for non-payment of rentals but the later has continued to challenge the eviction.

But on Friday evening the situation turned nasty outside the building when police arrested four people (three guards and an employee for PML) after Marathana’s Managing Director, Ernest Kaonga, called the police and told them the three were robbers.

A source at Soche Police Station privy to the matter confided in Nyasa Times, they indeed arrested the three after Kaonga called them to “arrest thieves.”

Keza complex
Keza complex

The arrested Petroda employee is Harold Muyaba, Operations and Logistics Manager while particulars for the three were not readily available.

“We later realised that the people he told us were thieves were actually his landlord and innocent guards,” he disclosed.

The source also said after the arrest they received a directive from one senior police officer not to give the three police bail.

Muyaba and the three guards were later charged with criminal trespass and malicious damage.

They are still in custody and were expected to appear before the Blantyre Magistrate Court on Monday to take plea.

According to our investigations, after the High Court ordered the institution to vacate the premises, Petroda through their lawyer Edwin Banda, sealed the area last Friday and placed guards to provide security.

“After sometime Kaonga [school director] went to the place and chased all the guards. When Petroda management heard about the development, it took three other guards to replace them and were accompanied to the place by Mr. Muyaba.

“But things got worse when Kaonga saw Muyaba and the other guards. He phoned our bosses who told us to rush to the area because thieves had invaded the premises,” he explained.

The case has generated a lot of interest from Blantyre based influential people such as politicians and lawyers.

And on Saturday morning, Soche Police Station Officer-in-Charge, Kandulu, vanished into thin air after Petroda’s lawyer Edwin Banda, who sealed the office park Friday, surrendered himself to the law enforcers to be locked up instead of the four people.

A troop of lawyers and politicians such as Humphreys Mvula and Blantyre Bangwe Parliamentarian, Henry Shaba, were part of the people who swarmed the police station to witness the possible release of the four.

Our source, however, said Kaonga was also likely to be charged for perjury after he lied that the four were thieves when in fact he knew they were from the landlord.

Kaonga could not pick up his mobile phones after several attempts to have his comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, another source has told Nyasa Times, Blantyre City Council (BCC) is partly to blame for the mess surrounding the Keza Office Park because it fraudulently allowed Kaonga to use it as an education facility.

“Keza Office Park was designed to be used for offices and not for school purpose. Maranatha used shortcuts to house a school there and has no licence [from BCC] to use the premises for the same,” said the source.

“There is no documentation allowing him to use the premises for school, he only got a verbal communication from the chief executive officer, Mr Ted Nandolo,” he added.

The source further revealed that the BCC Town Planning Committee resolved long time ago to have the school sealed but due to Kaonga’s influence the directive was failing to be enforced.

There are fears that parents may be duped as the school management continues advertising on various radio stations as well as newspapers about “its opening and staying in the premises for the next 10 years” when the court has actually ordered them out.

The High Court Commercial Division in Blantyre ordered the eviction of Maranatha following failure by the education facility to settle rental arrears amounting to over K200 million to the landlord.

The court first made the determination on April 19, 2013 in favour of the landlord in a ruling that also ordered the school to settle the amount in question.

But court records indicate that lawyers for the school, Chidothe and Company, appealed to the Supreme Court for a stay of execution of the lower court order.

Petroda and Maranatha have also been tussling over issues regarding city rates and utility bills besides the issue of quoting rentals in US dollars which was pegged at US $47,340 per month payable in Malawi Kwacha and in which the court ruled in favour of Petroda Limited.

Keza Office Park was constructed by former President Bakili Muluzi but he sold the building to Petroda.

Malawi Revenue Authority were previous tenants but moved to their own Msonkho House.

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