Former Lilongwe District Lands Officer, James Mwenda, has dismissed a claim by GM Properties Limited that it paid compensations to Area 26 residents before it started developing the land in 2005.
Mwenda – now District Commissioner (DC) for Salima – also wondered how the company proceeded to process a 199-year-old title deed for the land not duly compensated for as the laid down procedure demanded.
The DC made the sentiments on Monday during a full trial hearing at the Commercial Division of the High Court of Malawi in Lilongwe.
Judge Howard Pemba is presiding over the case, which dates back to May 2021 when GM Properties Limited obtained a court order stopping the residents from developing their native land, accusing them of encroachment.
The company claimed that it duly compensated the residents the natives and wondered why they were still living on the land.
But appearing before Judge Pemba, Mwenda – whom the court summoned to extract firsthand information (evidence) on the matter – described as false the claim GM Properties Limited has been making.
He said up to date, the office or the Lilongwe District Council does not have any documentation to support the claim.
The DC further clarified that under the laid down procedure, GM Properties Limited was supposed to issue/write a cheque to the council, which would facilitate the process of compensating the residents.
Asked if GM Properties Limited paid any money to the council to enable the council to compensate and relocate the residents, Mwenda responded: “No! Actually, that’s why these people are still living on that land to date. They cannot be moved to anywhere unless they are duly compensated.”
Mwenda faulted the firm for commencing developments on the land before compensations were fully given to the development-affected residents.
“And I can tell this court here that no cheque was issued to the council for compensations. Ironically, the developer [GM Properties Limited] went ahead developing the land and even proceeded a lease for it against the procedure,” Mwenda narrated.
He also dismissed a claim by GM Properties Limited that it paid some of the concerned villagers.
“Actually, let me re-emphasize that it should have been the council paying the compensations to the residents after receiving the money from the developer in cheque form. And I can confidently tell this court that this process did not take place,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, Judge Pemba has adjourned the case to a later date when Commissioner for Lands, Iman Malijani, is expected to give his testimony on the matter.