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Land wrangles blocking flood victims’ relocation

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Land wrangles have dogged the drive to relocate flood victims in the Lower Shire districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje.

People, who were affected by the January flood disaster and are willing to relocate to upper lands, are being forced to trade-in their land.

The development is slowing down the relocation process with some of the victims stuck in camps, some 10 months after they were displaced.

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Local leaders are also in the fore front attaching conditions to the land intended for the victims.

Continued stay in the camps, according to some of the victims, is posing food security challenges as some of them can hardly cultivate crops for next year’s consumption.

Flood survivors are also exposed to hunger and starvation as relief items stopped trickling in some months ago.

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In Dzing’ando Village in Chikwawa, the victims have been forced to trade-in their low land for new space upland especially in Village Headman Bodza’s area where Red Cross Malawi has constructed houses for some of the flood victims.

According to some of them, the new land is too small to accommodate all of them.

“It has not been easy for us to get this land. Our village headman had to trade in the land that was our village for us to get access to this space which was a farming land for other villagers. Government could not get us any new land and we were stuck at Luvunzu camp,” explained Fote Tchale from Dzing’ando Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Makhuwira.

Beston Malenga, who is Village Headman Dzing’ando, said most local leaders were reluctant to give the victims land.

“It is either they trade-in with another piece of land for them to get a place or else we have to submit to owners of the land’s demand to turn into one of their subjects,” he said.

He said they were first allocated a piece of land in Mpata Village which is part of Thyolo District but chiefs there allegedly set the condition that the victims should register as natives of the village.

Assistant Disaster Manager for Red Cross, Roste Kufandiko, said the land wrangles have delayed the organisation’s support to the affected people.

“For victims to find this land, it has not been that easy and, on top of that, the land cannot accommodate all the villagers.

“We have been forced to adjust the spaces of the houses we are constructing here due to limited space,” lamented Kufandiko.

Over 200 households in Chikwawa were displaced by floods in areas under Paramount Chief Lundu and also in Group Village heads Mafale, Sekeni and Chipakuza.

In Nsanje, over 2,300 victims from T/A Nyachikadza, were still in camps following demands by T/A Chimombo and Ndamera that they should surrender a portion of their land.

T/A Nyachikadza’s area is known for its fertile soil that is why the two traditional leaders are interested in it, according to a source at the Nsanje District Council.

“The two chiefs want more farming space from the Nyachikadza victims so that they can consolidate their positions,” said the source.

But Paramount Chief Lundu said it was not right for the local leaders to make such demands.

Minister of Information and Civic Education, Jappie Mhango, said government through the Ministry of Lands, was addressing the problem.

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