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Wandale given suspended sentence

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Senior Resident Magistrate Thoko Soko on Tuesday gave Vincent Wandale, leader of the Peoples Land organisation (PLO), a suspended sentence following his conviction last Thursday.

Delivering the sentence on Thursday in the Blantyre Senior Resident Magistrate, magistrate Soko said he had given Wandale the suspended sentence because he was a first offender, but she asked him to present three sureties and enter into a bond of K100,000.

However, she noted that because of his failure to follow proper channels to address land challenges in Thyolo and Mulanje, Wandale’s actions had threatened the security of the country.

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She added that his declaration of Thyolo and Mulanje as a sovereign state could have caused chaos.

The court last Thursday convicted Wandale on the charges of conspiracy to commit a felony, criminal trespass and aiding and abating people to illegally 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 last Thursday, 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.

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

However, his lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta had pleaded with the court that as a first offender, the court needed to be humane with Wandale in its sentencing.

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

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