20 September 2016 Last updated at: 7:14 AM
Thyolo land grab case: PLO members dodge prison
The Blantyre senior resident magistrate has given suspended sentences to 21 members of the People’s Land Organization (PLO) who invaded Conforzi estate for land distribution earlier this month.
The sentence means that the convicts will not serve any time unless they violate conditions of the sentence.
The Thyolo and Mulanje residents who were mobilized by PLO leader Vincent Wandale descended on the estate to reclaim land which they say was taken away by force from their forefathers.
State Prosecutor David Mtete told the court that Wandale and his group acted in contrast with law as they attempted to grab land using panga knifes.
Mtete added that the convicts deserved stiff punishment arguing that the victim (Conforzi estate) has suffered the damages made at the estate.
In mitigation, defence lawyer for the PLO members Michael Chipeta pleaded for a lenient punishment arguing that his clients were driven by “poverty and ignorance” when they invaded the estate.
He also asked the court to take into account that all members had no records of crime and some are old with one member in his 90s.
In her ruling, Principal Magistrate Thokozani Soko sentenced the convict to 17 months in jail but suspended the sentences for 12 months.
Thus any of the convicts should not commit any crime within a period of 12 months or the convict will be jailed for 17 months.
Soko added that each convict is to pay a bond of K5000 to the court as surety of their sentence on the case.