…..Maranathas Kaonga- The King of Malawi Courts
…sued for non rent payment, win K1.7billion damages
…sued for K281m, won K700m compensation
Is justice in Malawi for sale to the highest bidder? Elvis Nserebo, one of the Directors of Matindi Private Academy is asking Parliament, but many Malawians know what it is to seek justice before courts in Malawi- a nightmare.
Especially if you are facing the rich and powerful of society, justice in Malawi always tilts towards those who seem to have mastered the art of getting to the right court, right judge and right outcome.
Imagine someone owes you rent, you evict them, they sue you, and despite not meeting the basic maxim of equity (he who comes into equity must come with clean hands), he wins the case against you and gets more than what he owes you.
The clean hands doctrine requires the court to deny equitable relief to a party who has violated good faith with respect to the subject of the claim.
Further, according to the maxim, equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy. The. idea expressed in this maxim is that no wrong should be allowed to go un redressed if it is capable of being remedied by courts of justice, and this really underlies the whole jurisdiction of equity.
But ask Nserebo, on the verge of loosing property through courts, the country’s legal systems looks different from any of the legal maxims.
Matindi deal with Maranatha
According to court documents and letters to Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament and Chief Justice we have seen, Nserebo says Maranatha Boys Academy Limited entered into a ten year lease agreement with Matindi Private Academy Limited in September 2018.
Maranatha was supposed to pay ten year rentals in 2 years in advance whether
directly to Landlord or assignees. The Landlord in return had to hold the rental fee for ten years with no increase.
“The tenant has not finished payments until now in the fifth year and at the time the Landlord went to court for eviction. The 2 years has turned into 5 years.
“Clause 7 (a) has a clear eviction plan which the Landlord used to evict the tenant. The Tenant was served with a warrant of distress for the rentals and was evicted. The tenant went to the same court to apply for a stay order which the
Commercial Court denied in Blantyre,” reads the letter to parliament.
Maranatha hits back with a counter claim of K1.7bn
Whilst Nserebo and Matindi were celebrating their court win and eviction, four students from Maranatha Academy obtained an injunction on 24th August 2021, effectively stopping the eviction of Maranatha Boys Academy and Matindi Academy from proceeding the injunction.
Maranatha Academy went on to bring a counter claim worth over K1.7bn alleging a loss of business during the one week the school was closed.
The eye watering figure puts Maranatha brand at the same level in business as Banks, Mobile phone, Alcohol, Fuel and Malawi Revenue Authority who are known to be minting over K1 billion a week. That would translate into K52 billion a year business.
Nserebo told Parliament he was aware of the same that happened to GAM fillingstation where a businessman lost in counter claim.
“In their counter claim the tenant said they lost business because they had already paid rent and the Landlord was not justified to evict them. They defended their full payment with a heavily doctored and manufactured list of payments with signatures. No auditor on earth can add up the numbers,” charges the letter.
He says lawyers for the Landlord tried several times to discharge the injunction but to no
avail as adjournments were the order of the day, lawyers used all the arguments
available in the world but nothing happened, this injunction granted to the students
not party to the contract is now 2 years old.
“The injunction was discharged on 18th November 2022 by a draft and unsigned decision of the court but with the name of the Judge, the next day the students applied for a stay order and was granted to make the discharge of the injunction invalid,” reads the document.
“Our lawyers, CB Edwards & Co, are failing to make any application to discharge the stay order because they are denied access to the file for them to get the signed decision made on 18th November 2022 and reason for the stay since November 2022. The Clerk of the Judge says that they cannot find the file,” adds the letter.
Maranathas super success in court is not new On 7 September 2013 this High Court granted Maranatha International Academy Ltd an interim injunction without notice in which Petroda (Malawi) Ltd was, until there was an order with notice for an interim injunction, to desist from evicting the applicant from the leased premises at Keza Office Park .
Petroda (Malawi) Ltd, as landlord, on 29 August 2013, through the Sheriff of Malawi, distressed for rent in the sum of MK 117, 196, 088 for 1 March 2013 to 29 August 2013.
Maranatha, which was renting Keza complex and caught fire sued Petroda, demanding compensation over the damaged property.
The multinamed school, Maranatha Boys Academy in case of Matindi fight, Maranatha International Academy in case of Petroda and Maranatha Girls Academy another case of FDH.
In September 2013, FDH Bank advertised plot number South Lunzu 7/45 which belonged to Maranatha Girls Academy after the school failed to pay the FDH Bank K281 820 906.47 (about $424 000) which had been outstanding for several years and FDH was trying to recover the money by selling the provided collateral for the loan.
Maranatha counter sued the Bank saying their notice breached section 68 of the land Act and initially won K784 million compensation which was later reduced to K392 million for loss and damage arising from a breach of three months statutory notice by FDH Bank.
Sheriff of Malawi stormed FDH Bank Limited to seize office equipment from its Umoyo House Branch in Blantyre to enforce payment of the compensation to Maranatha.
The courts- Maranathas battle ground
Though Nserebo himself has appeared in bad press over financial matters, it is Maranatha brand owned by Evangelist Enerst Kaonga that has a colourful history of winning cases in courts, especially where initially he owed money to people.
Be it Petroda, FDH Bank and now Matindi, Evangelist Kaonga seems to have the same case replayed, where he owes money, and the one who is owed goes to court, the tables turn around quickly, that you will pay him more than he owed you.
Nserebo who wrote to the Chief Justice Rezine Mzikamanda, was told to appeal for a case whose file has gone missing for a year, no audience granted to his lawyers and an assessment being done by the court which entered a default judgement.
If it is hard for people of Nserebo status to get justice, very unlikely an ordinary Malawian would find justice before the rich and powerful in the courts.