says a breakdown in communication with one of its debt collecting firms led to the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) Building, which houses Public Affairs Committee (PAC) offices, being the only building sealed at the weekend.
The council, through a legal firm Middleton Chambers, sealed the building on Saturday and a letter from the lawyers that was left at the offices, which this reporter has a copy of, quoted civil case No. 1131 of 2016 (LCC Versus A.T Baisi and 4 others), citing outstanding city rates as reasons for sealing the building.
Reads the letter in part: “This letter serves as a notice of our intention to seize your property as per the court judgement due to the outstanding city rates. We give you three days from the date of this letter to pay all outstanding city rates with costs, failing which we will seize and sell your property without recourse to you whatsoever.”
In an interview yesterday, LCC spokesperson Tamara Chafunya stressed that the exercise is targeting all five defaulters of city rates in the council.
She said: “There was a breakdown in communication with one of the debt collecting firms [Middleton Chambers]. As a council, we were not aware that they had started executing the court order, and the firm is better-placed to know whether it was in order to do it on a weekend. But MCC, according to its general secretary Bishop Gilford Matonga, owes the council at least K6 million in city rates accumulated over the years.”
Matoga said in an interview that MCC was pushing for the opening of the offices from morning yesterday.
Our visit to the officers later in the afternoon yesterday found that the building had been re-opened.
In an interview, PAC publicity secretary Robert Phiri said it was worrisome that the offices were sealed during a weekend when there were no staff to do proper handovers.
He said: “We are happy that the offices have now been opened. We cannot say much about the closure because Malawi Council of Churches is the landlord, but obviously we are not comfortable with people we don’t know coming to our offices.”
PAC, a quasi-religious organisation, is widely seen as a critic of government on governance issues.
Last year, LCC asked the High Court of Malawi to help it collect K3 billion from city rate defaulters and the court recently ruled in its favour.
In July 2017, LCC published names of defaulters in the gazette and local press, a requirement that needs to be fulfilled before the matter is taken to court.