igh Court of Malawi Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda has dismissed an application for a judicial review by five tenants who challenged a Malawi Government decision to evict them from Treasury Fund houses in Lilongwe.
In his judgement, the judge dismissed the claimant’s application for judicial review, saying the reasons given were not enough to move the court to grant the review.
“In the circumstances, the application by the claimants for permission to apply for judicial review is dismissed with costs. In the interest of clarity and avoidance of doubt, the interim order of interlocutory injunction that was granted herein can no longer stand. It is, accordingly, discharged,” reads the ruling in part.
The case traces its origin to a communication made on March 8 this year by Secretary for Lands terminating the tenancy lease agreements for the five who lived in Treasury Fund houses in Areas 10, 12 and 43.
Court documents indicate that on different dates in March 2022, the claimants received letters from the defendant dated March 8 informing them of government’s decision to terminate their respective tenancies in the Treasury Fund houses effective June 8 2022.
Each of the letters reportedly stated as a reason for termination, that government has another use for the houses, but no specific use or reason was cited.
The defendant then gave the five three months notice and ordered them to settle all utility bills and surrender house keys at the Department of Housing before June 8 2022.
The five are Paul Gondwe of Plot Number 12/206, Zaine Bwanali of plot number 43/2/98, Lawrence Maleka of Plot Number 10/32, Elizabeth Thawale of Plot Number 12/159 and Dannyl Hassen of Plot Number 10/68 and they have been tenants in their respective houses for 18, 16, 12, 23 and 30 years, according to court documents.
Through their lawyer Yambani Mulemba, the claimants moved the court to review the defendant’s notices of termination of their lease, arguing that the decision was made without disclosing the reason and that it was made without any valid reason for such withdrawal.
“As taxpayers and members of the public”, the group also challenged the defendant’s decision to withdraw their opportunity to rent the houses “without affording [them] an opportunity to make representations as to the propriety or fairness of that course of action”.
In their application, the tenants asked the court to rule that the defendant is legally bound to treat them without discrimination of any form in the allocation of the opportunity to rent or purchase the houses in line with Section 20(1) of the Constitution.
They also asked the court to declare that the defendant’s decision amounted to unlawful discrimination, claiming that the eviction notice only affected them and some of the other occupants of Treasury Fund Houses and not all. They indicated that the defendant previously allowed other occupants of the houses to purchase the said houses.
But Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda and principal State advocate Neverson Chisiza opposed the application, arguing, among others, that the withdrawal was done in exercise of the defendant’s rights derived from the contract between the two parties and not its authority as a public body.
In his sworn statement, Chisiza argued that the claimants and the defendants voluntarily signed a tenancy agreement that has an option for termination.