By MIRIAM ZIMBA –
HER dream after retirement was to settle down in Lusaka’s Chilenje Township, after having worked for one of the defunct parastal companies for almost 20 years.
Idah Mwanza (not real name) is an old widow aged between 56 and 65 years of age.
According to her, there are no records to indicate her exact birth date, and that she has all along just estimated her age because she does not know the exact year and date she was born.
When her husband died in a road traffic accident in 1990, she and her two children moved from Villa Elizabetha, to occupy an institutional house in Woodlands area.
As fate would have it, the company where she worked was among those which were liquidated in the early and mid 1990’s, rendering Idah redundant.
Being a sitting tenant of a beautiful three bedroom house, she was offered to buy the institutional house at a cost of K14 million back in 1996.
Although this offer was too good to be true for a house in prime area such as Woodlands, the only challenge Ms Mwanza faced was that this offer was only valid for two weeks, in which she had to source for money to buy the house quickly.
“We were offered those houses to buy within two weeks, and K14 million was a lot of money. Some of my colleagues sold their houses between K30 and K40 million in order to raise the required amount but I decided to sell mine at K26 million. I instead opted to buy a smaller house in Chilenje”, she explained.
Her desire to place a roof over her head, led her into meeting a man in the name of Cosmas Mudenda (not real name), and her life has never been the same since then.
“I met Mr Mudenda through a real estate agent. He was looking for a house to buy, and because I did not have the money to buy the house, I drew up a contract of sale with the help of my lawyers,” she explained.
“This contract meant that he would give me K26 million for the house in Woodlands, in two installments starting with K14 million and then the balance of K12 million was to be paid within four weeks,” she added.
Four weeks later, when the balance of K12 was due, Ms Mwanza went to see Mr Mudenda at his work place to find out the progress on their agreement.
She was informed by his colleagues, that the man had retired from employment, and Ms Mwanza made efforts to get hold of him at his home in Northmead, she learnt that Mr Mudenda had travelled to England, without any information on his expected return.
She was advised by her lawyer to continue occupying the house in Woodlands, and continue awaiting Mr Mudenda’s return.
Mr Mudenda only returned to Zambia three years later in 1999, and wrote a letter demanding his K14 million with interest amounting to K47 million.
“So, since I am a lay woman with limited knowledge on legal matters, I went to consult a lawyer, who advised me to look for the principle amount of K14 million to pay him back without any interest because he was the one who had breached the contract of sale,” she narrated.
When she returned to look for Mr Mudenda with her lawyer, so that the matter could be settled, she was amazed to learn that he had again travelled back to England.
He only returned to Zambia in 2002, and sued Ms Mwanza for illegally occupying his house.
His demands at the time were that she either gives him the house or returns his K14 million with interest for the six years since the contract of the sale was drawn.
Working on advice from her lawyer, Ms Mwanza sold a few of her personal properties and plots in order to raise the K14 million, which she paid through the court.
“I did not see any reason why I should pay when this man is the one who breached the contract by going out of the country on two occasions,” she lamented.
At the time all this was happening, the Ministry of Lands had issued Ms Mwanza with title deeds for the said house in Woodlands, and as far as she was concerned, the house was hers because she paid monies owed to Mr Mudenda, and the title was in her name.
To her surprise, one day she saw a car pull up at her premises with one uniformed police officer and two other men in civilian clothes who ordered her to get into their vehicle.
When she tried to question why she was being asked to get into their vehicle without any reason being given, she was severely beaten up and bundled into the vehicle and driven to Woodlands Police Station.
“I then found myself at Woodlands Police Station, that was in 2008,”. They ordered me to be placed in cells on the basis that I had lost the case over the house by then my granddaughter who is an orphan was only six years old, and she had remained home alone,” Ms Mwanza recounted.
She spent an entire day in police custody without any document to order her detention.
“Even when I tried to plead with the officer-in-charge at the Police Station, I was just told to remain in cells, as they awaited the court order, which was never brought forth.
This was enough time for the said man and his people to pack all her property from her house and throw them on the streets.
Apparently, even the uniformed police officer who took her to Woodlands Police was just hired by Mr Mudenda, and it has not been established to date which police station this officer operates from.
Ironically, when she tried to call her lawyers to help her whilst in police detention, the phones were switched off.
She later went to the Supreme Court to find out if there was any order to place her under police detention, but there were no such records.
Instead, she was told that there was no way the court could have engaged the police while the matter was still before the courts of law.
“I was instead advised to go back to my house. At the time, I already had two executions of stay for me to go back into the house, but they were waiting for the motion to either restore the case in court, or not.
“When I went back home, I found that Mr Mudenda had thrown my properties outside, and the premises were being guarded by a private security firm,” she explained.
She spent three weeks sleeping outside in the cold and rain, and during her stay outside, almost all her property was destroyed by the rains, with some of it stolen while she was out searching for food and money.
As a result of spending nights in the cold, she is now frail and sickly, prompting sympathizers to call Muvi television who interviewed Ms Mwanza.
Her story on Muvi TV generated a lot of public interest, and a named Lusaka based politician offered Ms Mwanza temporal accommodation at her servant’s quarters, and hired a lawyer for her to assist with the legal representation.
When the case was taken to the Supreme Court, she won the motion and was granted an execution of stay, ordering her to go back to her house.
Unfortunately for Ms Mwanza, this order has not been upheld because of the social injustices associated with fighting with affluent people
During her stay with this politician, Ms Mwanza fell victim of another misfortune when the said politician asked her to surrender the original copy of her title deeds, under the pretext that she would be helped to get back her house.
So, if there is any interest, then that interest has already been covered because this house has been on rent since that time, and the man has been collecting rentals since 2008,” she explained.
I do not see any reason why I should continue to suffer, apart from that I am not a criminal, I have worked for this country for a good number of years, and the house is the only thing I have to show for my long years of service rendered to this country,” she lamented.
“Now, I have nowhere to stay,am homeless and I am just squatting with well wishers,” she said.
Her greatest plea is for government and well wishers to help her fight a battle that for now is clearly beyond her.
Because she did not give the politician the original title deeds, she was unceremoniously evicted from the servant’s quarter she was occupying.
“Upon my reluctance to give them the original title deeds, I was chased from their home, they said ‘you think we are interested in your house?’, she narrated.
That was how she found herself squatting along Kabwe road, where is lives to this date.
“Here where I live now, I am unable to pay rent because I do not have money, I am old, and I do not have any income or any children to depend on, I only have a grand-daughter, whom I am looking after, and life is so hard for me.,’’ she lamented.
“I am now a beggar, a destitute, and I have nowhere to turn to. Even Where I am right now, they want to chase me because the rentals are due but I do not have the K300 they are asking for,” she added.
Her 12 year old grand-daughter Susan is now surviving on the goodwill of the Catholic Church, who have placed her at City of Hope center in Lusaka’s Linda Township where she is now in grade seven.
The biggest question now remains, for how long will Ms Mwanza continue to suffer injustices when the supreme law of the country-the Constitution states that all are equal before the law.