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Land advocates denounce leader

Land advocates in Thyolo and Mulanje have denounced the threat by one by their leaders Vincent Wandale to “unilaterally” declare Thyolo and Mulanje a sovereign republic if government failed to address key issues as demanded by their groupings.

Wandale’s Peoples’ Land Organisation (PLO) of Thyolo teamed up with the Citizens for Protection of Mulanje (CPM) to fight for right to land for people of the two districts.

However, on Wednesday Wandale gave an ultimatum to the Peter Mutharika government that should it not address the issues raised, his organisation and people of the two districts would declare the two tea farming districts a sovereign state – the United States of Mulanje and Thyolo.

But members of PLO and CPM and other top leaders on Friday denounced Wandale’s actions, saying his ultimatum was unilateral and did not reflect the will of the locals and concerned membership and the bulk of leadership.

“I want to stress that what we want is land and not war, we are not here to advocate for any secession or war. We don’t want peoples’ blood to flow, let us handle this issue soberly and not drift from what exactly we want. What we want is land and a better environment for the people working in tea estates, we are not political,” said Crispin Nkhoma, one of the leaders of PLO, during a press briefing in Thyolo.

The briefing was also attended by parliamentarians Bon Kalindo and Charles Mchacha who have over the years helped in the fight for land by poor masses.

Kalindo is a key figure in CPM, However, during the press briefing, the two parliamentarians joined forces with PLO and CPM local membership to denounce Wandale’s stand.

“It has been our wish that the President of the country acts on the issue and intervenes. Now, the President called me and Wandale for an audience and he positively showed good commitment to assist people of Thyolo and Mulanje; why should we not give him a chance to use the right means to solve the problem [rather] than resort to the militant stand that Wandale is advocating? Are we being fair to ourselves?” he said.

Kalindo said it was sad that Wandale was advocating for things that could lead to violence and suffering of local masses

Members of the two groups said they wanted Wandale to use the same media outlets to apologise and reverse his reasoning.

However, Wandale stressed that come December 17, the people would act by declaring the two districts a separate country if government did not force the estate owners to give back the land to the locals and pay accrued rentals for using the land since grabbing it many years ago.

“The people that were at that press briefing are cowards and are being used by politicians, and actually whatever I say was reached at during a meeting we conducted after the members realised that what the President committed was just hide and seek – our final solution is “self determined, it is our right,” he said in an interview, stressing land will be distributed to locals after December 17.

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