About 48 people have been rendered destitute in Mgawi Village in Dedza District following chieftaincy wrangles that have been going on for two months now.
They include 16 children (10 girls and six boys) 23 men and 25 women who at the moment cannot afford a decent meal, observe hygiene or stay warm and dry.
Malawi News crew which went on the ground has since established that there are two camps among the villagers that are tussling over the throne of Senior Group Village Mgawi, which led to a fracas in November last year.
The ordeal seems to have affected the mental well-being of the affected people, who are now socially isolated and feel humiliated.
One of them, Chimwemwe Mgawi, told our reporter that it has been two months since the incident happened, which forced them to flee the village and they have since been surviving on any food they can lay their hands on, including mangoes.
“We ran away from our village unprepared without any basic resources such as clothes and utensils.
“We don’t have mats to sleep on…we are scattered all over the place, some sought refuge in houses of other people around the area, government at both central and local level, has not done anything so as to support us,” he said.
There have also been claims that in the period that the dispute has been going on, some villagers have gone missing while others are thought to have been brutally killed by rival camp.
Chief Administration Officer and spokesperson for Dedza District Council, Yohane Bilesi, corroborated the developments, adding that they have since scheduled a meeting today (January 2 2021) right at Mgawi Village.
“Indeed there was a fracas in the area on November 14 2020 leading to displacement of some people. But the Department of Disaster Management Afairs (Dodma) provided relief items like blankets, pales, plates and cups including start-up food package. They were notified for further support. The DC [District Commissioner] involved the District Peace and Mediation Taskforce to engage firstly traditional leaders of the area, member of Parliament (MP) and Councillor of the area. Again, both parties were engaged on 26th December to try and bring sanity,” Balesi said.
Our visit to the area established that some of the victims sought refuge at Katewe Court, with the blessings of District Commissioner (DC) Emmanuel Bulukutu.
When contacted, Minister of Local Government Lingison Belekanyama said the ministry will investigate the issue.
“Let me find out because I have Traditional chiefs like Chilikumwendo, Kachere, Kaphuka , Chauma, Tambala , Kasumbu and Sub Traditional Authority Kamenyagwaza in Dedza, the issue requires time to investigate, I will revert back to you once I have correct information,” he said.
Meanwhile, Centre for Youth and Children Affairs (Ceyca) Executive Director Desmond Mhango has asked government to give urgent attention to the matter.
“As a human rights organisation, we express our deepest concern over government’s negligent handling of the matter. The whole situation amounts to nothing less than negligence of the authorities at the District Council, MP and Ward Councillor because these are public office holders and policy makers and should have done better to find remedy to the situation and the alleged loss of lives could not have been there,” he said.
Dedza West MP, Ouzious Chidobvu, has told Malawi News that the issue dates way back to when the one who previously occupied the throne was deposed after misappropriating Farm Inputs Subsidy (Fisp) coupons, paving way for a new chief whose reign is now being contested.
“All along there has been peace until when the new T/A [Traditional Authority] came to install the new Group Village Head who was acting in place of the one who was removed. Following the fights, the first family obtained an injunction, however, the chief was still handling matters. However, the T/A installed Senior Group Mgawi at a small function which happened in the house and not an outside function. Then fights broke out and two people died following the fights,” Chidobvu said.
He added that some people have since been arrested while others have handed themselves over to the police.
In recent years, chieftaincy wrangles have been common and have not spared any of the country’s three regions.