Malawi President Peter Mutharika this week met a grouping of citizens from tea districts of Mulanje and Thyolo to seek solutions to the acute land problems facing the people of the two districts.
The meeting was in reaction to a pronouncement last week by Peoples Land Organization (PLO) leader, Vincent Wandale, who declared the districts of Mulanje and Thyolo an independent state over failure by government to address land problems facing people of the two districts.
At the meeting, Mutharika sought assurances from representatives of PLO and Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje Mountain (CPM) that they will use amicable means and not force in their pursuit of solutions to the wrangle.
The representatives gave Mutharika their assurances and also distanced themselves from earlier calls by Wandale who is also pushing for forced eviction of tea estate owners as a reaction to unmet demands.
Speaking to journalists after meeting the president, Member of Parliament for Mulanje South Bon Kalindo, who led the team, explained that leaders from the two groups and people of Mulanje and Thyolo are not party to the breakaway.
“We want the president and all Malawians to know that what Wandale said were his own personal views and does not represent PLO or CPM or the people of Mulanje and Thyolo. The people from the two districts respect the constitution of Malawi, love this country and respect the President.
“The President understands the land problems facing the people in Mulanje and Thyolo and he has assured us that he will take this matter head on and find a lasting and amicable solution to it. And that is what the people of Mulanje and Thyolo want and not be on our own,” said Kalindo.
According to Kalindo, the land issue is a serious matter that cannot be resolved by using threats or undermining the ongoing efforts for personal fame.
However, Kalindo dismissed fears that they were betraying their followers, saying the discussions were a step in the right direction on the matter since the president has taken up the issue.
Earlier this year, Kalindo warned that people from the two districts would not take anything apart from support to take back their ancestral land and the tea estates in the two districts.
He challenged Mutharika to intervene in the land wrangles or face serious unrest from the people of the two districts whose patience, he said, was being stretched. Kalindo’s outbursts forced government officials from the ministry of lands to sign a petition committing to address concerns of the two groups.
People from the two districts are demanding that the commercial farmers pay £65 per acre, per year for all used colonial estate land accruing from 1914 to date and a wage rate of £6.13 per hour per individual for those who were involved in Thangata (forced) labour between 1914 and 1963.