By John Saukira
Malawi has the longest court case ever in its history — the Civil Appeal Case No. 42 of 2015 between Rolf Patel and others versus Press Corporation Limited (PCL).
The case went to court in 2004 for legal minds to interpret on who is the owner of the company after being affected with ownership wrangles since the parties involved had previously been in a joint venture.
According to submissions in court then, Rolf Patel and others entered into working Joint Venture Agreement in 2001 with Press Corporation Limited and PressCane Products Limited where PCL would have 50.1% majority shares.
Following conversion of PCL’s investment into loans in September 2003, and recovery of the said loans, Justice Dr Michael Mtambo ordered in February 2014 that PWC Auditors should verify if PCL had any amount outstanding in PressCane Ltd, whose findings were that PCL has no investment in the company.
This appeal is on Justice Mtambo‘s judgment being Commercial Case No. 120 of 2012 Court.
The petitioners’ lawyer, Justin Dzonzi said they are just waiting for the courts to see the wheels of justice running.
Patel, former Malawi Member of Parliament (MP) and cabinet minister during the United Front Democratic (UDF) party government, also confirmed that the case is still stalling 17 years on.
He said he has been waiting for justice to take its course to his hard-earned property, which was his main source of bread after dissolving his Katundu Haulage company.
Patel sold all his property in order to invest and finance PressCane, formerly known as Cane Products Limited.
PressCane Limited is an ethanol distillery, which is a subsidiary of the conglomerate Press Corporation Limited and began operations in June 2004.
The plant is located in Chikwawa on the west bank of the Shire River about 30km north of Nchalo (55km south of Blantyre) and employs 118 Malawians including management.
The main products of the distillery are fuel ethanol also known as anhydrous alcohol (AA 99.8% v/v) and industrial alcohol (rectified spirit 96.5% v/v).
Sugar cane molasses are procured from Illovo in Nchalo and fermented into ethanol. The molasses is a byproduct (effluent) for the Illovo Sugar Mill process, whose environmental disposal issues have been solved by the establishment of PressCane Limited.