Supreme Court rebuffs CSOs on Salima-Lilongwe Water Project

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Seven Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Judges on Thursday ruled in favour of Khato Holdings in a motion of appeal by two civil society organisations (CSOs) to replace the Malawi Law Society (MLS) in Salima-Lilongwe Water project case.  

Chancy Gondwe: Khato Holdings Laywer Chancy Gondwe: Khato Holdings Laywer

Had the two CSOs- Centre for Human Right Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Youth and Society (YAS) succeeded in the case, the matter would have reverted to the High Court of Malawi to determine the legality of the project in respect of awarding of the contract to Khato Holdings as well as commencement of the work without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.

CHRR and YAS, through private practice lawyer Bright Theu, appealed the matter to the full bench after a single Supreme Court of Appeal judge Lovemore Chikopa dismissed their application on December 22 2017.

In his December judgment, Justice Chikopa said the wishes of CHRR and YAS could not be granted because at the time of making the application, proceedings that had existed between MLS and the respondents, Khato Holdings, had ceased to exist after leave had expired and there was no renewal.

And in Thursday’s ruling, Justice Mwaungulu said the two organisations cannot join the matter now because the case was validly annulled in the December 2017 ruling.

Mwaungulu said it is surprising that the two organisations revived a case which was already nullified last year.

He said the case which the two organisations filed was already dismissed in the MLS application.

Speaking after passing the judgment, Lawyer representing Khato Holdings, Chancy Gondwe, said he is grateful that the case has come to an end.  

“We are happy that the Supreme Court, which is the highest court on the land comprising seven justices of appeal have actually agreed with the observations we have been making all along, let the project move. This now mean there is no huddle. Nothing to stop Khatho Holdings from implementing the project,” said Gondwe.

While on his part, applicants’ lawyer Bright Theu said he was deeply disappointed with the decision of the court saying it was arbitrary.

“With due respect, this is the highest court of the land. What this court has done was just to endorse the judgment of a single member of the court, which was rendered without appropriate jurisdiction. And I can’t just process that that is why I am deeply disappointed,” said Theu.

During the case, the state was represented by a counsel from the Attorney General’s office, Lilongwe Water Board, Environmental Affairs and the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining.

The Thursday ruling came just weeks after government signed a deal with financier of the k400billion project, Trissag Espanola of South Africa, effectively putting on course the project.

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