79-Year-Old Widow Dragged to Court Over Land

The fate of Emilida and Grace awaits justice from the court The fate of Emilida and Grace awaits justice from the court

Emilida Chapendeka, 79, in 2014 agreed with his husband Slick Chapendeka (now deceased) to sell part of their land in Sosola village in Balaka district to meet some of their needs.

Ben Maya who knew about Chapendeka's intention of selling the land linked them to a Balaka based business tycoon, Derby Makwelero, popularly known as YAPA Enterprises, who was looking for a land to buy. They settled for K1.850 million after negotiations.

Payment Raises Eyebrows

Makwelero alongside Maya, as his witness, gave the elderly couple some forms to sign, saying they were meant to enable him access a bank loan to pay for the land.

Chapendeka alongside his brother in-law appended their signatures.

After some days, they were called to open a bank account to enable them get their payment.

Maya who linked them to the buyer assisted the Chapendekas open an account and K1 million was reportedly deposited into their bank account on 16th April, 2014.

A balance of K850 thousand was to be settled within a year, according to the agreement Zodiak Online has in possession.

Makwelero facilitated that lands officers at Balaka District Council put beacons on all the four corners of the land in the presence of witnesses for both seller and buyer.

Next to the said land, one divorced young lady, Grace Msowoya, in her late 30s had already constructed a house that was at roofing level which she started building in 2013.

This was a year before Makwelero came to buy the land from Emilida. Grace bought the land from Emilida's younger sister.

A year later before settling the balance, Makwelero went to Balaka Magistrate’s Court and sued Emilida Chapendeka as first defendant and Grace Msowoya as second defendants for allegedly trespassing and encroaching.

A husband to Emilida died of high blood pressure and Emilida had to defend herself in the court of law.

From Balaka in the eastern region, the case was in no time transferred to Lilongwe High Court under Civil Cause Number 309 of 2015.

Emilida and Grace had to find a lawyer to represent them and meet transport costs on several occasions covering hundreds of kilometres to Malawi's capital for court proceedings.

To the surprise of the defendants, Makwelero allegedly served them with a high court judgement in 2019 which said they did not go to court on May 15th for hearing.

They claim neither them nor their defense lawyer Henry George Kadzakumanja they hired did not receive any communication on the date for hearing.

The court proceeded in the absence of the defendants and judgement was delivered on October 8th, 2019 signed by Lilongwe High Court Judge, MCC Mkandawire.

Judge Mkandawire says in the judgement that he found both defendants liable for trespassing and encroachment.

Lawyers commenced a process for a stay order of judgement.

On 20 September, 2020, both parties went on the land in question to appreciate the boundaries. 

Lawyer for the plaintiff, Henry George Kadzakumanja, says: "We are waiting for a court to give us a date and find a way on how we can resolve this after we met the other party.

"A file was misplaced at Balaka Magistrate’s Court for a stay order process and with Covid-19, the process has delayed somehow."

Defence lawyer, Dr. Zolomphi Nkowani, says there is progress especially that “we appreciated the boundaries together with the other party.

"We are yet to sit down and resolve this then report to the high court on the outcome," said Nkowani.

Resource Constraints and Fear of the Outcome

79-year-old Emilida says the case has dragged too much and she has spent much to an extent of selling livestock.

She says: "The worst part is that I have never received my balance and with the proceedings, I am also failing to sell my land to someone so that I pay back the money he paid me; I am stranded."

On the other hand, Grace is in suspense as to whether she will maintain ownership of the land which her brother bought for her when she was divorced.

"My fingers are crossed, I have no peace of mind as to whether I will enjoy my new home or wake up homeless one day after the proceedings," says Grace.

The fate of Emilida and Grace awaits justice from the court.

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