A 12-year-old standard 8 pupil at Chitawira Primary School, Andy Kondwani, has written his Primary School Leaving Certificate (PSLC) examinations while sleeping out-doors after Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) evicted her widowed mother from their house in Chitawira on grounds of being illegal tenants.
MHC has since accused Andy's uncle – Ewing Kondwani—the official tenant of the house, of illegally subletting the house number CW322 "for a very long time" but has promised to assist his mother if she can justify her case with the corporation.
However, Ewing Kondwani claims that he still leases and pays rentals for the house and that the widow and orphans living in the house are his dependants who have been under his care since 2009 following the death of his brother.
What is more intriguing is that Ewing, who now works and lives in Lilongwe, is in the process of buying the house and paid K26,000 to MHC in 1995 as half-down installment of the K52,000 the corporate quoted him for the purchase of the house.
However, Ewing says he has been unable to finish paying for the purchase of the house following a fraud case at MHC in 1996 after which he was told by MHC auditors that his deposit was part of the stolen money.
"I have a receipt for my deposit. It was an auditor at MHC Mr Nyalapa, who is still there, who told me that time that following a fraud, their books were showing that I had withdrawn the deposit. However, he went on to tell me that their investigations showed that the money had been stolen by MHC staff and that the corporation will correct the anomaly and inform when I could continue paying for the purchase," Ewing said in an interview on Friday.
He said, however, that to his bewilderment, MHC later told him that he could no longer purchase the house as the corporation had suspended selling of houses.
"First of all, I found it strange that they could not allow me continue paying for the purchase of the house when I was offered the house before they suspended house sales yet it was because of their own internal problems that I was still unable to finish paying for the house. Secondly, they did not pay me back my deposit."
He said feeling victimised, he engaged the services of a lawyer, a Mr. Mankhambera who, however, died before the case was concluded.
"Right now, I was in the process of retrieving the file for the case from Mr. Makhambera's estate at the Administrator General's office so that I should take it to another lawyer, only to hear that my foster children and sister-in-law have been evicted from the house," said Ewing, who was preparing to travel to Blantyre to take up the matter with MHC.
Narrating her ordeal, Ewing's 35-year-old sister- in-law, Mary, whose belongings were still outside the house where she and her children have been sleeping for two nights, said MHC officers and armed policemen came to the house on Wednesday May 16 and forcibly evicted them from the house.
"They wanted to take our belongings to their offices but I told them to leave it with us. We have nowhere to go and we will continue sleeping here until my brother-in-law comes to sort out the matter with MHC," said Mary.
She said her 12-year-old son has written his PSLC while sleeping out-doors while her other 14 year-old nephew – who learns under a scholarship at Joyce Banda Foundation Secondary School, has been travelling to school every day after sleeping out of their locked house.
"It's very hard for us, especially for the children because it's cold out here. But there is nothing else we can do but wait for my brother-in-law," said Mary, who lives with three other orphaned children of his other late brother-in-law, in addition to her two secondary school going children.
However, MHC Acting General Manager Wellington Kazembe said on Friday that MHC investigations showed that Ewing Kondwani has been illegally subletting the house and that MHC has written him on several occasions asking him to stop the malpractice.
"Some of Mr Kondwani's neighbours have reported that he has been renting out the house to members of the public. Mr Kondwani stopped staying in the house in 1998. Since that time, he has been subletting the house," alleged Kazembe.
He said Kondwani did not inform MHC that he is keeping his brother's widow in the house.
"In any event, he has no authority to put anyone else in the house, apart from himself before he finishes paying for the house. That was illegal. If he wanted to put the widow in the house, he should have come to MHC for advice. MHC would have changed the tenancy into the name of the widow and she could have been staying in the house lawfully," explained Kazembe.
He advised the widow to go to MHC on Monday and see him personally with proper identification.
"We will assist her," promised Kazembe.
On the down payment made by Kondwani for the house in 1995, Kazembe said that sale was cancelled.
"If he brings evidence that he indeed made part payment for the house, he will be given a refund," said Kazembe.