MATTER NO. 142 OF 2001
GANIZANI B. MTUWISA………………………………..APPLICANT
PRESS AGRICULTURE LIMITED…………………RESPONDENT
CORAM: HON. M.C.C. MKANDAWIRE, CHAIRMAN
Applicant – PresentRespondent – Absent
George Chapalapata – Official Interpreter
Matter in issue: Withholding of money by the Respondent.
In this matter there are two applicants who are Ganizani Mtuwisa and Friday Anderson respectively. The matter they have brought against the respondent is that of withholding their money. The respondent did not turn up for hearing in spite of a notice of hearing having been forwarded to them. There were no reasons given for such a failure. The Court therefore ordered that the matter should go ahead for hearing.
The Applicants were tenants at the estate of the respondent in the growing season 2000/2001. As tenants, the respondent provided both farm inputs and food to them with an arrangement that when the tobacco is sold, they would recover the money from the tobacco sales. The two applicants explained that the system the respondent’s servants operate in the estates is extremely oppressive. The tenants are supplied with both farm inputs and food without any documentation. Later on the clerks at the estate take advantage of this weakness by selling the other farm inputs and food to the surrounding areas yet when it comes to re-payments by the tenants, the clerks saddle the tenants with extra amounts of money from the inputs and food which they have personally sold. This system became so rampant that the tenants reacted by reporting to the authorities. Unfortunately, the authorities did not help at all. But the authorities sent private investigators who confirmed from the neighbourhood that this was indeed happening. The first applicant said that he was the spokesperson for his colleagues.
During the payments of the 2000/2001 seasons, the two applicants said that they discovered that their advance debts were inflated. Instead of receiving K20,000 and K15,000 each respectively, the respondent’s cashier at the farm said that almost all their tobacco sales had been exhausted because they had to offset the advance given. The second applicant told the Court that the clerk tricked him by making him thumb print first then said that his money was only K1,869. It is his evidence that he vehemently protested and kicked the doors at the office. He even refused to receive the cash since this was unbelievable.
The respondent was not available to controvert the evidence. The Court however looked at the defence that they had made on the Notice of Motion. Their first ground was that Mr. Anderson was already paid and he thumb-printed. As for Mr. Mtuwisa, the respondent said that they did not have anyone by those names.
The Court believed that Mtuwisa was one of the tenants. The second applicant actually identified him that they have been together at the estate and he was actually the spokesperson. What the respondents were saying was thus a joke.
The issues in this case should not be looked at as comical. This Court takes judicial notice of the fact that most tenants if not all in this country are not capable of appreciating the art of literacy. A good example is that of Mr. Anderson who was literally made to thumbprint. It is thus clear that these are vulnerable groups, which can easily be tricked by some clever employers. The two applicants lamented that although management had sent in their private investigators to confirm the concerns which the tenants had, no positive steps were taken in order to remedy the situation. Thus this Court believed the applicants when they stated that they were saddled with loan advances which had inflated figures. As a result of this situation, the applicants found that they were in a deficit.
The Court finds that the applicants have told the truth and the respondents have not at all come forward to controvert it. I therefore find that the respondent is still withholding K20,000 for Mr. Mtuwisa and K15,000 for Mr. Anderson. I order that this money should be paid immediately.
Delivered this 1st day of October 2002 at Lilongwe.