Disagreements over ownership of two Tobacco Commission (TC) houses sold in 2018 are far from over as one of the buyers has sought a court injunction restraining TC from evicting her.
TC is pushing to repossess the houses––one which was bought by leader of opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa in Lilongwe at K125 million and another purchased by a businessperson Jayshree Patel in Blantyre at K50 million. Nankhumwa is also protesting repossession of the house.
The commission argues that the houses were acquired illegally as the sale did not follow due process.
The organisation wants to cancel the sale of the house for Patel, Plot Number CG88 (Title Number Chigumula 22), on allegations that she did not bid for the property and that it was sold at a price below valuation and lower than what other bidders offered.
A court notice dated October 18, 2021 from High Court (Commercial Division) Lilongwe Registry, Commercial case No 431 of 2021, stops TC from evicting Patel until a determination of the matter.
Reads the court notice: “ The defendant is hereby restrained either by itself, its servants, agents or whomsoever acting on its behalf from evicting the claimant from the house that she bought from the defendant in Chigumula, Blantyre, known as plot number CG 88; from taking possession of the said house and from trespassing on the said property, until a determination of this matter or a further order of the court.”
In an interview this week, TC chief executive officer (CEO) Joseph Chidanti-Malunga confirmed being served with the court notice.
He explained that the commission already reimbursed Patel the K50 million she paid to buy the house.
Said Chidanti-Malunga: “We were surprised to receive the court documents because the tenant received our cheque and did not communicate to us of the route she has taken.”
A copy of the cheque number 53920 dated October 9 2021 was returned to TC together with a letter from Patel lawyers saying their client is contesting the cancellation of the contract.
In its report alleged abuse of office at the commission released in May this year, the Office of the Ombudsman faulted the sale of the two houses when there was a ban on sale of institutional houses.