- We now have the title deeds—MUST
- We know nothing about the title deeds—Bingu Family
BY PIJ REPORTER
The land dispute between the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) and the Bineth Trust, belonging to former President Bingu wa Mutharika’s family, continues to drag on without any signs of resolution. Despite MUST’s recent acquisition of title deeds, the contentious issue surrounding the ownership of the land on which the university stands remains unresolved.
MUST claims to possess the title deeds, but the Bingu family adamantly denies having any knowledge of such documentation. This conflicting stance has only escalated the ongoing feud between the parties involved.
The disputed land has been a subject of contention for an extended period, with MUST and the Bingu family presenting their arguments and evidence to support their respective claims. The recent development of MUST asserting its possession of title deeds adds a new twist to an already complex issue.
The dispute holds significant implications for the university, as its very existence and operations are closely tied to the land it occupies. MUST has thrived on this site, establishing itself as a prominent institution of higher learning in the region. However, the uncertainty surrounding the land’s ownership casts doubt on the university’s future.
According to MUST’s communications manager, James Mphande, the university recently received title deeds for the land from the Registrar of Lands.
He stated: “As we speak, MUST has been given title deeds for the land on which it stands. So, the land belongs to the university.”
Despite several attempts by PIJ to seek the Registrar of Lands Bernard Sande position, no response was received.
Mphande explained that the acquisition of the land is based on the government’s position that Bingu donated the land for the construction of the university, and evidence for this donation is well-documented in parliamentary records and official ceremonies.
While Bingu’s eldest daughter, Duwa Mutharika, declined to comment on the issue, a close family source, also a member of the Bineth Trust board, revealed to PIJ in confidence that the family learned about the transfer of the title deeds through social media.
The source stated: “For us, there is no land wrangle. Government approached us, and we told them that we would be willing to lease the land to them for 100 years at no cost, with the condition that if MUST folds, the land will revert to the trust.”
The family member expressed disappointment, stating that no one had contacted them to explain the transfer process, and they were only informed through the news. The family has been informed that their case would not be accepted in court due to their opposition status, leaving them uncertain about their next steps.
In a legal opinion dated 9 June 2022, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda advised MUST that the quickest way to resolve the impasse was to apply to the Land Registrar for registration as the proprietor of the land through prescription, as stated in the Registered Land Act. The Act allows for the acquisition of land ownership through peaceful, open, and uninterrupted possession for twelve years.
In a letter seen by PIJ, MUST’s registrar, Alfred Danny Ulemu Chinombo, sought government intervention in claiming the land, citing the university’s non-payment of rentals to Bineth Trust for the 13 years they have occupied the land, as stipulated in Section 134 of the Registered Land Act.
MUST was constructed on a piece of land in the privately-owned Ndata Farm, situated between plot number 61313,50/89 and plot 61313,51/89 in T/A Chimaliro, Thyolo district. The construction of the MUST campus at Ndata was financed by an $85 million loan from the Chinese government.