A rights group has vowed to explore all legally available means to ensure landless people in Thyolo and Mulanje districts are given land that is idle in estates.
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa made the vow at the end of a brief meeting with Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa and the concerned landless people’s representatives at Thyolo Boma on Friday February 19, 2021.
He said CDEDI participated in the meeting under protest following Msukwa’s sudden change of plan and approach for the meeting.
“We agreed in principle with the minister that our meeting would start with a briefing and confirmation of the route for a planned tour of the selected estates that are currently sitting idle. There was supposed to be a mini press briefing at the very end of the tour, only to be shocked to learn that the minister had already visited the estates without us. Actually we opted to walk out of the meeting but after a second thought we decided to participate, but under protest,” said Namiwa.
According to the CDEDI Executive Director, the institution and the concerned landless people in Thyolo and Mulanje have stood firm on their demands contained in the letter to President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera that the estates should release all the idle land; surrender part of the tea, macadamia and other cash crops to be managed by the locals; be compensated by the British government for grabbing their ancestors’ land at gun point.
“The people of Thyolo and Mulanje had their fundamental natural resource that sustains life taken away from them by the white settlers, and apart from violently taking away the land the British farmers also inflicted pain on the very same wound by introducing forced labour fondly called Thangata system. Britain has not even dared to offer an apology, and neither have they compensated the victims,” he charged.
Namiwa further lamented that Thyolo and Mulanje are grappling with high population rates, perennial hunger, and pressure on social amenities due to the estates that have attracted people to settle and seek employment opportunities in these districts from elsewhere.
“It is disheartening now to note that these estates have almost abandoned most of their work, meaning the employment they used to offer is no longer there. They even don’t care to give back to the owners of the land through corporate social responsibility, to the lucky few that are still working there in modern day slavery. They are getting very miserable wages, below the required minimum wage of K50, 000, and they are working in potentially dangerous environments without protective gear. This is unacceptable to say the least, “said Namiwa.
In his reaction to the concerns, Msukwa said he is aware of the plight of the landless people in the two districts he has visited in Thyolo.
He however, asked the two organizations to give him time to meet the estate owners, chiefs and other leaders in the district before coming up with a resolution.
The meeting with the Lands Minister in Thyolo ended without a communique` and clear timeframes, a development that has forced CDEDI to brand Msukwa’s visit to Thyolo as the business as usual kind of pure political rhetoric and public stunt politicians are well known for.
Meanwhile, CDEDI has written the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to investigate the police brutality in a case where some estate owners reportedly hired the Malawi Police Service to mercilessly beat up the landless people who wanted to reclaim part of the idle land belonging to General Farming estate in Khonjeni on November 8, 2020.