President Peter Mutharika on Thursday summoned leaders of the Thyolo-based People’s Land Organisation (PLO) Charles Mchacha and Bon Kalindo of the Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje (CPM) at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre to discuss the long-standing land wrangle between communities and tea estate owners in populous Thyolo and Mulanje districts where most of the arable land is taken up by tea estates.
Some concerned citizens have been threatening to invade the farms and grab the land.
Mutharika held a closed-door meeting with the two parties and State House press office did not give any to the invited media.
But comedian-turned-politician Kalindo told reporters that the President invited them for discussion after learning about the issues in the media and wanted to pacify the matter.
Kalindo has been mobilizing the people of tea growing district of Thyolo to stand up against commercial land owners and occupy the land which he argues “rightfully belongs to them.”
Mchacha on the other hand has been fighting against Kalindo’s agitation for land occupation and branded Mulanje South member of Parliament (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP), who is also DPP deputy spokesman, as an opportunist.
In an interview with Nyasa Times, Kalindo hailed President Mutharika for his intervention, saying his “wisdom and guidance” has helped to pacify the matter.
On the other hand, Mchacha said Mutharika have saved the situation in what he feared was a ticking time bomb.
Besides the land issue, the meeting also touched on the welfare of people living in the two tea-growing areas as well as the damage and deforestation in Mulanje Mountain.
Malawi’s tea industry, started by colonial masters in the 1800s, occupies thousands of hectares believed to have been grabbed from natives. The industry is also one of the most productive in the world.
PLO has been agitating for the local people’s occupation of all idle tea estates land in the districts since its establishment in 2009, and has been demanding that estate owners pay £65 (about K53 000) per acre per year for all used colonial estate land from 1914 to date.<
The organisation has also been demanding from the estate owners a wage rate of £6.13 per hour (about K5 000) per individual for those involved in thangata (forced labour) between 1914 and 1963. There are10 big estates in Thyolo and Mulanje which started their farming during the colonial era.
While CPM has been petitioning tea estate owners to allocate all idle lands, discharge social responsibility functions and improve the working conditions for their workers.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :