Levy Mwanawasa’s retirement home cannot be sold without treasury approval because it was constructed with public funds, attorney Dickson Jere said the court.
Esther Chipasi and Osuman Mustapha, two money lenders, filed a lawsuit against former first lady Maureen Mwanawasa, demanding her removal and control of the old President House, which the government is now constructing.
But D. Jere of Messrs Dickson Jere and Associates, who is representing the Mwanawasa family, countered that since the house is now owned by the state, the money lenders are not allowed to seize it or sell it.
“They (applicants) have not given full disclosure to this Court and the nature of the transaction. It was a loan agreement of K2.1 million Kwacha but the lenders are demanding USD 2 million dollars in interest, which is very unconscionable,” Jere told the Court.
The Mwanawasa family has completed and moved into three housing units intended for workers, but the money lenders want them to be paying rent instead. According to Jere, the family cannot be forcibly evicted without a court order and state approval.
“That the three housing units in Lot No. 2480/M Chongwe are government property subject to the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act No. 1 of 2018 and therefore requires Secretary to the treasury to authorize any disposal,” Jere told the Court according to court records obtained.
“That the applicants (money lenders) herein have no ownership of Lot No. 2480/M as it is subject to the Benefits of Former Presidents Act, Chapter 15 of the Laws of Zambia,” Jere further told the court in the preliminary issues raised.
The attorney questioned why University of Lusaka, which claimed to have purchased the property, was not in court when they were attempting to evict the late president Mwanawasa’s family and take possession of the property.
“Had they (UNILUS) done just a little bit of due diligence, they would have realized that that property cannot be sold. It is currently occupied by the Mwanawasa family by virtue of another statute, in this case the Benefit of Former President,” Jere told the Magistrate Court.
Additionally, he objected to the Magistrates Court’s jurisdiction, arguing that it lacked the authority to decide a case involving an estate worth more than US$2 million.
Paul Norah & Advocates, the attorneys for the money lenders, argued that Mrs. Mwanawasa had failed to repurchase the property, and as a result, their clients had sold it to UNILUS.
Before the Court could issue a ruling when the case was up for ruling on Friday, the money lenders through their attorney filed a notice of cessation of the lawsuit.
The Mwanawasa family is currently being evicted from the government property, which is still under construction and at roof level, by certified bailiffs appointed by UNILUS.
According to the law, the government is required to construct a residence with dwelling units within for the government employees caring for the former Head of State at the location of the former President’s choosing.
The previous President and his family receive the completed residence in a formal handover. The house still needs to be finished and turned over to Mwanawasa, therefore the government is paying for the First Lady to live somewhere else until that happens.