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Landless people’s plight: MHRC accuses government of complacency

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By Macdonald Thom

The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has accused government of complacency in the way it is handling the issue of landless people in Kasungu.

In a report on landless former Press Agriculture Limited (Pal) estates workers, the commission has observed that there are many violations of human rights but government has not been serious on the issue.

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About 7,200 of the former workers have settled at Rusa Estate in Mchinji while about 1,000 still remain in Kasungu.

MHRC conducted an investigation on the issue following a complaint by Reverend Flywell Somanje of Millennium Resource Centre. Somanje has for the past four years been trying to help the people.

“The Government’s continued complacency in addressing the matter of the complainant is a violation of their right to dignity. The Government’s failure to fully use all their resources in their disposal to assist the complainants is a violation of their right to development and right to property,” reads part of the report, released on September 24 2018.

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It adds: “The Government’s continued failure to address the complainants’ matter and rectify their situation coupled with the insinuation that they could just return to their villages of origin is a violation of their freedom of movement and residence. The begging that the people are engaged in is a violation of their right to human dignity.”

In the report, MHRC has said there is an urgent need to find out the total and exact number of landless persons in Kasungu and Mchinji.

“For landless persons who can’t identify their original homes, it is the obligation of the State to resettle them elsewhere so that they are no longer landless,” reads the report.

MHRC has also said Somanje must be ordered to stop transferring people and leave the responsibility of resettling them to government.

Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi said government will comment on the issues raised after reading the report.

“Malawi Human Rights Commission is part of the government. It advises government on how best it can handle issues of human rights. I hope they have written to government so that the advice and their observations can be looked into properly and in detail. After reading it, we will be able to comment,” Dausi said.

An exclusive story by our sister paper, The Daily Times, in the Times Shaker series, unearthed the suffering of the people at Rusa Estate.

Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development spokesperson Charles Vintulla that time said government was yet to finalise payment to Press Agriculture Limited for the acquisition of the land.

Meanwhile, Somanje has said he wants government to assist the people who have resettled in Mchinji.

“The recommendations of the report should be implemented. We know there are procedures to be followed but we expect something to be done. We want those people to be assisted,” he said.

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