Thursday, May 30, 2024

Mwanawasa House For Sale

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By Isaac Mwanza

Last week, the nation woke up to a dramatic eviction of the former first lady Maureen Mwanawasa from the house government had been constructing for her and her children who were below the age of 21 when former President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa died.

The property was sold to the University of Lusaka (UNILUS), one of the most reputable universities in Zambia, by two money lenders Esther Chipasi and Osuman Mustapha who had lent Mrs Mwanawasa K1.2 million.

Many on social media claimed the house could not be sold as it was being built for the late former President Mwanawasa as part of his benefits. We find this not entirely true and want to dispel this from the beginning.

According to Section 4A (1) of the Benefits of the Former Presidents Act, a law that provides for benefits of a former President and his family, government is obliged to provide a furnished executive house to a former President who cease to hold office.

Such an executive house is built or bought in Zambia by the State at a place of the former President’s choice.

However, Mwanawasa died in 2008 before government could provide him with such an executive house at his choice thereby triggering sub-section 2 of Section 4A of the Act.

Under subsection 2, government is compelled to provide a furnished house (not an executive house) to the widow and children below the age of 21 of a dead former President, in this case, Maureen and the children.

The house is built or bought by the State at a place of the surviving spouse’s choice. The widow, Maureen, and the children share joint tenancy, meaning upon death of any one of them, the title would pass to other survivors until the last one.

This house built under Section 4A(1) belongs to the estate of a former President while the house built under Section 4A(2) does not belong to the estate of a late former President but to the widow and her children below the age of 21.

In our case, the State had in 2012 assigned land in Chongwe, opposite UNILUS to Maureen Mwanawasa to be jointly owned with her named children, in accordance with Section 4A(2)(b) of the Act.

The property belonged to Maureen Mwanawasa and the children, namely, Chipokota Mayamba, who works at State House, Matolo Levy Mwanawasa, Ntembe Tylanda and Lubona Perise Chikulupanama.

However, statements appearing in the media sound as if Maureen traded in property which she had not right to trade in or that the property did not belong to her but to her late husband, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. That’s incorrect.

According to the law we have cited here, the property being built by government is her property together with the children. Maureen and the named children could do as they pleased with the property or the house.

They could have subdivided it among themselves or sell part of it to anyone, including government if government had wanted it. They eventually would have walked away with the money as late former President Rupiah Bwezani Banda did.

Maureen is a senior lawyer. She would not have been and was not careless to trade in property for which she had no title or authority from the children with similar life interest in it.

After her unsuccessful bid for the mayoral position in 2016, word has it that Maureen had decided to engage in what appeared to be a low-risk and high-return business.

Even though aware what it is, the author will not discuss the type of business unless she decides to do so herself. Maureen desperately needed money to invest in that business.

In 2017, it is reported that Maureen went to borrow K1.2 million from the named money lenders and pledged the property as collateral on a buy-back basis.

A caveat was put on the title so that no one could have any further business dealings on the property which was subject to a loan. This is a matter of mortgage practice.

Maureen failed to settle the loan. The money lenders grabbed the house but had offered her to buy it back at a much higher price, which was beyond her means. This was a business transaction.

At the height of these financial pressures in May, 2018, Maureen resigned from the UPND and stepped out from politics to concentrate on managing her businesses.

The Daily Nation reported that on 6th July, 2018, her children, who also had life interest in the house, signed a consent letter to sale the Retirement House, giving Maureen permission to transact on the property.

Having failed to pay back the money and on the authority of all the joint owners of the house, the money lenders caused to be removed the caveat on the property between 7 and 10th February, 2023.

The property was sold to University of Lusaka Limited at a consideration amount of US$2.1 million and a certificate of Title No CT_144302 was then obtained.

In our laws, Section 33 of the Lands and Deeds Registry Act makes it clear that a Certificate of Title is conclusive evidence of ownership from the date of issue notwithstanding existence in any other person of any estate or interest except in the case of fraud.

From these facts, it is difficult to fault UNILUS for purchasing the property which belonged to Maureen and her children. UNILUS, in our view, is a bonafide purchaser for value without notice.

What we mean is that UNILUS is a good-faith buyer who could have paid the U$2 million for a property from the money lender without knowledge of existing prior claims or equitable interests.

UNILUS could not have bought the property if they knew Maureen and her children had no ownership which they decided to give up to the seller.

UNILUS could have made the business decision, aware that all children who needed to give consent had given their consent to Maureen to sale the property. UNILUS had interest in the property because of its proximity to their Chongwe learning campus.

UNILUS must decide what next for them, irrespective of the moral judgment the public can make.

At the same time, we as members of the public should stop portraying as if Maureen acted criminally or wanted to make unjust enrichment by trading in property in whom she had no right to trade in. That’s not true.

Maureen must be going through a very difficult phase in life and could have made wrong decisions, which we all do.

Maureen needs our sympathy, a listening ear from friends, and assistance from government on how best to navigate the situation she has found herself in, no matter how embarrassing it could be.

More than ever before, Maureen needs her children who knew what happened to stand with her, defend her action and remove the tag that she acted without authority from the State when the property was theirs and on title, irrespective of fact that government was still constructing the house.

We call on President Hakainde Hichilema to assist the former first lady by sending her into diplomatic service. In that way, she can cope up with current situation and focus on something more constructive away from public criticisms which may have effect on her health.

[Published by the Zambia Daily Nation, April 2023]

32 COMMENTS

  1. Zambia had far better economic indicators under Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda than with the PF (Poverty Front)

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  2. Good to put the law into perspective. But I disagree that she is owed an appointment simply because she is struggling with finances now. If she should be helped, it should be because she is qualified and did sacrifice for the UPND. I remember she was stoned in a helicopter in 2016 when campaigning.
    As a side note. She and fmr first lady Kaseba seem to be the only fmr first ladies who may have the right education for diplomatic duty.

  3. as late former President Rupiah Bwezani Banda did. Banda was given a house. He didnt do this??
    Unless there’s corruption involved and Banda got both money and the house? ACC must investigate this

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  4. Perhaps this is why Lungu decided to forego this benefit. A benefit that can be the source of negative ripples for a surviving wife. Why didn’t she just wait for it to be completed?

    • @Chiza he did state that he was ending the benefit of building the President a house and would not receive one himself. Just check your news archives

    • He may have stated that. But there is a law in place which has not been amended. According to that law, he is entitled to a house in his own place of choosing within Zambia, including 80 percent of the current President’s salary amongst other benefits. This is why government is paying his rent right now.

    • Zambia Daily Mail September 29 2015
      By KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
      WHEN President Lungu delivered his maiden speech to Parliament on September 18 this year, he proposed changes to the law that provides for benefits for retired presidents.
      Mr Lungu said building a house for every former head of State is not only unsustainable for a developing country like Zambia but also unfair as it excludes other constitutional office-bearers.
      In pursuit of the virtues of equity and our aspiration for a smart Zambia, I wish to announce changes to the law that provides for benefits for retired Presidents, he said.

    • I do not think that it is fair and equitable that the State must build a house for a retired president and not for others. We have to demonstrate strong commitment to cost-saving measures for now and for the future. I’m proposing that this forfeiture takes effect starting with me.

  5. “We call on President Hakainde Hichilema to assist the former first lady by sending her into diplomatic service. In that way, she can cope up with current situation and focus on something more constructive away from public criticisms which may have effect on her health.”

    Diplomatic service is not a dumping ground. It’s a place for professionals trained to represent and bring in positive things back to their country. There are other ways of helping out people than that , through economic empowerment schemes of the CEC, ZDA, etc

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  6. This is law at play. I like your courage to differ with highly opinionated lawyers who didn’t explain their basis of saying house cannot be sold

  7. I love the articulation of the law here, juggling between one law to the other. You really eat the law, sleep the law

  8. What I know is that this matter is in Court and Dickson Jere is one of the lawyers, so this article is prejudicial and the author risks being cited. After the death of LPM, Maureen has been mentioned in several unpleasant financial transactions. It’s futile trying to defend her and please don’t bring HH into this. LPM’s law firm is closed because of Maureen’s activities. Her uncle Ronnie Shikapwasha counseled her on financial matters when he was still in government. She isn’t the only former first lady. And let her not posture as if her children were the only children that LPM had. She’s a bad mother because she’s failed to unite them.

    • Agree that she has been financially irresponsible. However, commenting on a matter like this does not amount to contempt of court. Additionally, I do think that the house can be sold in any case since the property does not belong to the state.
      Of interest to me is is the fact that the house was sold for 2.1 million USD when the loan Mwanawasa got was 1.2 million kwacha.
      That’s a profit beyond comprehension. Waiting to see the ruling on this.

    • @Chiza, I see it differently. What the article has raised rebuttals what Counsel Dickson Jere submitted and the Court is yet to decide. Let me also add that it’s misleading to state that Maureen is a senior lawyer. What’s the qualification of a senior lawyer?

    • Ayatollah, offering a legal opinion on any matter before court is not contempt. Unless you are one of the parties and you provide such an opinion.
      This is why students of law are sometimes asked to comment on matters before court and to state what they think the correct application of the law should be.
      Senior lawyer is simply someone who has more years of practice than you. Even a person with a year more practice than you can be referred to as senior counsel. This is so because the law has strict adherence to seniority.
      Isaac Mwanza is not a practicing lawyer so to him everyone is senior.

  9. You people debate according to the story not PF MMD, or UPND. it bout the house not PF. what is your problem you only dream about PF and think about PF?

  10. Very insightful article but why does the law discriminate against other children. That is how FTJ children from other mother ended up suffering because they were older. But children are children

    • No discrimination, when you are older than 21 you should be considered an adult and don’t have to rely on parents. Otherwise can have the senior orphan ambassador in Malawi claiming his father’s benefits.

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  11. There are lots of retirees with no pension to fall on. Should they also be sent into the diplomatic service? Why do we treat our leaders like god’s? Does it mean we have to bail out every former President’s spouse, child, nephew because they are not supposed to suffer like us commoners?

    There are too many parasites feasting on the national treasury. Let us relook the conditions of service regarding Constitutional office holders. They are too generous. Why do we have to build the President a house when we take care of their needs during their tenure of office? Where does their salary go?

    • @ Jeffrey, HH is in trouble. He’s already given a job to a 75yr old orphan! There are other orphans at State House. This is the problem with people that depend on a government job for survival. He has to create jobs for them. It’s not easy being President in Zambia

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    • KK didn’t have that privilege. FTJ introduce the law.
      Please when they start sending retirees in foreign service, include my name on the list.

  12. Zambia Daily Mail September 29 2015
    By KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
    WHEN President Lungu delivered his maiden speech to Parliament on September 18 this year, he proposed changes to the law that provides for benefits for retired presidents.
    Mr Lungu said building a house for every former head of State is not only unsustainable for a developing country like Zambia but also unfair as it excludes other constitutional office-bearers.
    In pursuit of the virtues of equity and our aspiration for a smart Zambia, I wish to announce changes to the law that provides for benefits for retired Presidents, he said.

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