The High Court in Blantyre has ordered the government to pay two entities owned by Mulli Brothers Limited about K1.5 billion for damages the companies suffered during the July 20, 2011 anti-government demonstrations.

This brings the total to about K2 billion as the same court had already ordered the government to pay K660 million as compensation for the damages the companies— Sunrise Pharmaceuticals Limited and Chombe Foods Limited— suffered during the same demonstrations.

Court documents show that the order was made on May 3 this year. The court adopted the amount by lawyer representing the aggrieved party Tamando Chokotho as no state lawyer turned up for the assessment to make objections before the order.

“He [Chokotho] calculated the loss of business and loss of use for Sunrise Pharmaceuticals Limited and found that the loss of business and loss of use up until 30th May 2013 is in the sum of MK1, 313, 196, 638. 89.

“He also calculated the loss of business and loss of profits for Chombe Foods and found that loss of business and loss of profits until 30th May, 2013 is in the sum of MK161, 758, 447. 20,” reads the assessment order in part.

The documents further show that the order considered loss of goods damaged in the warehouse, loss of profits on goods in transit damaged in vans, loss of interest on cash stolen and cheques and loss of electrical equipment, among others.

When Senior State Advocate in the Attorney General’s Chambers Madalitso Kausi applied for a stay of the order pending appeal against the assessment order, the stay was denied on grounds that the State did not exhaust all laid down procedures. The documents further indicate that Chokotho, on May 17, objected to state’s intention to appeal against the order of the assessment of damage, saying the period for such an action had already expired.

However, having heard both Chokotho and Kausi on the matter, Justice Healy Potani ruled on May 22 that the State should file “Notice of Appeal out-of-time” by not later than last Friday, May 31.

But as of Monday, June 3, 2013, the file did not have any documents as per Justice Potani’s order. The court is yet to decide on the matter.

Mulli Brothers Limited sued the government, demanding compensation for goods lost during riots and for the government’s failure to comply with the Riot Damages Act which provides for such compensation.

The lawsuit further demanded damages for loss of business, for loss of use of movable and immovable assets of the companies and cost of the legal action.

Though Kausi denied all the claims, saying the government was not liable under the Riots Damages Act (Cap 14:10 under the Laws of Malawi), the court faulted the government for failing to compensate the companies despite following all available avenues.

“Clearly, looking at the facts in this case, and the losses suffered by the plaintiffs [companies] in the aftermath of the July 20, 2011 riots [where] losses were substantial, it is our view that the government is under an obligation to consider compensating the victims of the said riots and sadly this did not happen despite the plaintiff approaching the Office of the President and Cabinet.

“According to Section 9(1) of the Riot Damages Act, if payment cannot be made from the compensation fund, it can alternatively be made from the consolidated fund,” said the late Justice Joseph Manyungwa who presided over the matter then.

He went further handing down his ruling which went against the government.

On July 20, 2011, the civil society organised mass protests against the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party administration over the economic hardships the country was experiencing. – by Simeon Maganga

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