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Vincent Wandale convicted

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The Blantyre Senior Resident Magistrate on Thursday convicted leader of the Peoples Land organisation (PLO), Vincent Wandale, on all three counts that he was answering.

Senior Resident Magistrate Thoko Soko has convicted Wandale of conspiracy to commit a felony, criminal trespass and aiding and abating people to use land on an estate in Thyolo.

The court also acquitted Wandale’s accomplice, Tendai Msikita, on the three charges.

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In her ruling, the magistrate observed that the so-called independence of Thyolo and Mulanje that Wandale was advocating was endorsed by only about 3,000 people when each of the two districts has more than 500,000 people.

She found that their actions amounted to a conspiracy to commit a misdemeanour; hence she convicted him of conspiracy to commit a felony and criminal trespass.

On the third count of unauthorised use of peace of land, magistrate Soko observed that although Wandale had not personally benefitted from the land at Comforzi Estate, she found that he aided and abetted the villagers to use the land and therefore convicted him on the charge.

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Reacting to his conviction, Wandale said he would appeal and press on by using appropriate means to enable the people of Thyolo and Mulanje reclaim their land from estate owners.

“The government of Malawi cannot force allegiance from the people of Mulanje and Thyolo. It has lost the trust of the people and, as such, PLO will appeal and seek intervention from international organisations.

“We will claim back our land that was stolen from our ancestors by the whites,” said Wandale.

In its pre-sentencing submissions, the State asked the court not to give Wandale a suspended sentence as was the case with 23 other villagers from Thyolo who were arrested alongside Wandale.

However, his lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta told the court that Wandale was a first offender and as such the court should apply a humane face in passing the sentence.

He said his client’s actions were not motivated by personal gain but rather to find a solution to the long standing issue of shortage of land in Thyolo and Mulanje.

“Land is a major issue in Thyolo and the government is not willing to address it. My client has found himself on the wrong side of the law because he wanted to address an issue that the government is not interested to solve. I, therefore, pray that the court should apply lenience and give him suspended sentence,” said Chipeta.

The court will pass its sentence on November 8, 2016.

He was arrested on September 3, 2016 alongside 23 villagers in Thyolo for arbitrarily possessing and trespassing on Comforzi Estate in Thyolo

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