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President Peter Mutharika weighs in on Thyolo land issue

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Malawi President Peter Mutharika has finally been dragged into the land wrangles between citizens from his home district, Thyolo and Mulanje and estate owners.

Mutharika has remained mum on the matter since March this year when plans by people from the two districts to occupy the 24,000 hectares of idle land and the tea estates in the districts failed to materialise following the acceptance by the leadership of People’s Land Organisation (PLO) and Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje (CPM) to meet government over the matter.

But yesterday, Mutharika summoned the PLO founder and self-claimed Supreme Leader Vincent Wandale and Mulanje South parliamentarian Bon Kalindo who has been a leading voice for Mulanje people to Sanjika Palace to discuss the matter.

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However, details of the discussion have been kept under wraps as State House officials refused to talk to the press despite inviting the media to Sanjika Palace.

“For a long time we have been discussing issues of land in the two districts and about how bare Mulanje Mountain has become and we have commenced discussions [with

the President],” said Kalindo who refused to shed light on the discussions.

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Kalindo dismissed fears that they were betraying their followers, saying the discussions were a step in the right direction on the matter since the President has taken up the issue.

A source privy to the matter, however, said the secrecy surrounding the meeting is because of the interest the international community has on the matter.

Addressing people from the two districts at a meeting held at PLO headquarters in Thyolo on March 4 this year, Kalindo warned that people from the two districts would not take anything apart from support to take back their ancestral land and the tea estates in the two districts.

He challenged Mutharika to intervene in the land wrangles or face serious unrest from the people of the two districts whose patience, he said, was being stretched.

Government officials from the Ministry of Lands cooled down the matter the same month when they signed a petition committing to address concerns of the two groups.

Ironically, Kalindo’s remarks are in sharp contrast with what he told The Daily Times in July that they were frustrated by government’s casual approach to the matter following the lapsing of a two-week window that was set for government to take action.

“We are not satisfied so far,” said Kalindo, “We have had meetings with government twice in Lilongwe and Blantyre and we hoped that with what was discussed there would be light at the end of the tunnel but this isn’t the case.

“We are not getting any answers from government on our concerns and people think that our group is no longer there but we are watching things as they unfold for proper action.”

People from the two districts are demanding that the commercial farmers should pay £65 per acre, per year for all used colonial estate land accruing from 1914 to date and a wage rate of £6.13 per hour per individual for those who were involved in Thangata (forced) labour between 1914 and 1963.

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