A Maldeco Fisheries retiree has dragged former president Peter Mutharika to the Office of the Ombudsman over a land in Mangochi where the ex-leader built his retirement home.
Ironically, the claimant, Albert Viola, petitioned Mutharika in October 2017 when he was President, informing him that some people sold him his land and he wanted to be compensated.
But Viola, who wanted Mutharika to pay him for the land that time, said in an interview on Thursday that the petition never got to Mutharika as it was allegedly blocked by people close to him.
Viola, who disclosed he co-owned the land with his brother, Ernest Viola, a Blantyre-based transporter, said he received K7.3 million from a broker related to him after the land was sold to Mutharika.
He felt this was far too little as compared to the land he valued to be worth K36 million.
Viola, who claimed in his complaint filed with the Ombudsman that he left his house near Nkopola and relocated to Makanjira when he felt his life was in danger as he allegedly received death threats from people he was fighting with over the land, said in the interview he only realised the land was developed after reports of Mutharika’s relocation to Mangochi after the fresh presidential election.
Ombudsman Martha Chizuma confirmed in an interview on Friday that her office received Viola’s complaint, adding it was forwarded to lawyers in her office for legal screening.
“This is the process where our lawyers make a review whether my office should take up the complaint…this is a normal screening process. I’ll have to check with the lawyers at some point to see where we are because this came about three weeks ago,” she said.my office should take up the
But Arthur Masamba, from former president’s office, said Mutharika bought the land through a legitimate process that involved Ministry of Lands and the former head of State has documentation to prove that.
Masamba said the issues coming up could be family matters and the former president does not know Albert Viola and has never dealt with him.
Saulos Mkuluzado, a step brother to Albert Viola who brokered the deal, explained in an interview that the land belonged to Ernest Viola, but since Albert Viola was working for Maldeco in Mangochi, his brother asked him to be looking after the land.
Mkuluzado, who said he and Albert Viola were born of the same father but have different mothers, said there was a dispute between the two Violas over the land, but as a family, they agreed to have the land sold and share the proceeds between them, Albert Viola, 40 percent, and Ernest Viola 60 percent.
The land, he explained, was sold to Mutharika for K30 million when he was president, and after some deductions that went to Ministry of Lands and other charges, the balance was paid to Albert Viola, K7.3 million and Ernest Viola, K12 million plus, as per agreed percentages.
Mkuluzado said the land, owing to the disagreements between the Violas and as directed by the two, was registered in his name, Saulos Mkuluzado, until it was sold to Mutharika.
He said the ex-Malawi leader is the rightful owner of the land and he duly paid for it.
Bwanali Msusa, a group village head where the land is in Traditional Authority Mponda, who, together with other villagers was using the land before it was sold, said they were paid K6 million by Mutharika as a token of appreciation to have them move out of the land.
However, documents Albert Viola filed to the Ombudsman show he won a court battle at the High Court where the court determined that the land belonged to him.
According to a letter dated June 17 2014, which is part of the documents filed with the Ombudsman, former Mangochi district commissioner (DC) Bester Mandere warned Msusa and Wasili Anderson, people Viola was fighting with, that they should allow the claimant access to use the land as it belonged to him as was determined by the High Court and anything contrary to this was going to be contempt of court.June 17 2014, which is part of
“I could not go anywhere to seek help because the people involved were powerful politicians who were untouchable at the time. I have, therefore, written this letter to seek your help to get justice on the matter and help me to recover my money,” Viola wrote to Mutharika but claims this letter was blocked.
However, in a letter Mandere brought to the attention of the people that were fighting with Albert Viola the High Court judgement, which he attached to the letter he wrote them.
The former Mangochi DC advised Albert Viola’s alleged aggressors that the land belonged to Albert Viola and should allow him to access it, but this, according to Viola, did not work and had to flee the area as he claimed his life was in danger.
In the petition by Albert Viola to Mutharika when he was president, also attached to his complaint filed with the Ombudsman, he appealed to him for a favourable consideration to pay him for the piece of land the alleged land grabbers wrongly sold him for K30 million.
“I make this request fully aware that you paid the group for the same, but as a person, I cannot single-handedly claim anything from them. I have, therefore, opted to turn to you as a father to consider compensating me for the damage and loss which I have suffered,” reads the letter Albert Viola claims was blocked.
In January 2017, another former DC for Mangochi, James Manyetera, as the fight over the land went on, told Nation on Sunday that Albert Viola was the rightful owner as per documentation, but was failing to access it.
Manyetera advised Albert Viola at that time to sue for contempt of court, but Viola indicated that time that he had no money to initiate that process as he had exhausted his retirement package from Maldeco Fisheries and a K10 million bank loan, which he said he used to construct fish ponds on the land, which he said he was later forced to fill up with soil.
A letter from Secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development then, Ivy Luhanga, dated September 21 2016, which Nation on Sunday had seen, and addressed to Commissioner for Lands, South, advised that the court ruled in favour of Albert Viola in 2013 in a land dispute against Msusa and Anderson