Scores of families in Malawi’s central district of Dedza have sent an emotional plea to President Joyce Banda to consider about their welfare following government forcible eviction from what has been their home for many years.
Armed police officers alongside officials from the Departments of Forestry and Parks and Wildlife last week forcibly evicted tens of the people for allegedly illegally residing in a protected forest area.
For many years, the people have been illegally living and cultivating in Mua-Livulezi Protected Forest area which is located in the area of Traditional Authority Kamenyagwaza in the district and efforts by government to remove them have hit a snag.
But last week, the officials took the people by surprise razing down their houses. Their household items and fields of tobacco, maize, potatoes and tomatoes were also destroyed.
In the process, over 30 people were arrested before being taken to court where the Dedza First Grade Magistrate Court sentenced 18 of them to 15 months imprisonment with hard labour.
But the evicted people who were rendered homeless after the exercise have pleaded for assistance from the president saying they were now living miserably.
The affected people said since they were evicted, life has become unbearable for them as they lost everything in their possession.
“We are struggling in our own homeland and have been reduced to refugees. Our children are heavily suffering and with the cold weather the situation is even worse as we have nowhere to sleep.
“We are requesting the state president to assist us with shelter and food because we have nothing to eat and no where to live,” complained Andrew Moyo, one of the evictees.
He added: “All our property was destroyed and the crops, which we depend on for income generation, were also trashed forcing us to live like destitute.”
But Dedza District Forestry Officer, Alick Mitawa, had no kind words for the affected people claiming they deliberately invited the trouble.
“These people have been warned several times to move out of the protected area but they never complied. We have given them notices countless times but they didn’t want to heed government’s orders and they should not complain now.
“The police were compelled to use force in evicting them because they had repeatedly defied orders to vacate the protected area,” he said.
Mitawa further said the exercise would continue until all the people are removed from the area as they violate the Forestry Act.
Mua-Livulezi Protected Forest Reserve is one of the four forest reserves that also serve as tourist attractions areas in Dedza district. Others are Dedza-Salima, Chongoni and Dedza Mountain.
The area is primarily home to a very vast quantity and variety of bamboos which the local people have developed expertise in the art of weaving baskets mainly Madengu and winnowers (malichero).
However, people use the forest’s resources in unsustainable manner through unnecessary firewood cutting, charcoal burning, bamboo harvesting for selling, timber selling without replanting, tillage within the forest, among others.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :