Angry villagers from Chivala Village in Traditional Authority Kapondo in Mchinji on Tuesday burned huts belonging to ex-tenants who settled at Rusa Tobacco Estate 69 in the district, formerly belonging to Press Agriculture.
The villagers torched four huts that led to the destruction of household supplies that included flour, maize, clothes and other items that got consumed in the inferno.
However, no one was injured during the incident.
In March this year, about 3,000 people from Kasungu settled and built their huts on the Estate where they used to work as tobacco tenants.
According to Police Public Relations Officer for Mchinji, Kaitano Lubrino, hostility between the two sides came about after villagers from surrounding areas of the Estate, which is now owned by government, claimed that the ex-tenants had occupied their land and they had nowhere to cultivate.
In an interview, one of victims, Brenda Felix said at around 8:00 am on Tuesday, about six men and women started torching her house and other three houses.
She said they threatened her to go back to where she came from saying the estate land they had settled on was not theirs.
“The villagers torched my house and the fire razed down my hut and all my property is completely destroyed including food. Right now I am desperate and I don’t know where to go,” said Felix.
A representative of the ex-tenants, James Chisale said they settled at the estate from Kasungu after being landless for a long time.
“Our parents used to work for Press Agriculture in Kasungu and since the estates were handed back to government, we have nowhere to go so we decided to settle here in Mchinji in March this year,” he said.
Chisale said the ex-tenants were angered with the arson that took place and considered retaliating but decided to report to Kapiri Police, who came to their rescue.
Police say they have since arrested two people identified as Edward Saulosi, 42, and Verenasi Mankhwala, 22, from Chivala Village in connection with the incident.
When Mana visited the scene, the ex-tenants had gathered with weapons such as pangas and knives as they awaited the police to address them.
Group Village Headman Chivala assured them that he would ensure that they are living peacefully in the area.
“I am sad that people from the village did this. We are all citizens of Malawi and I would like to apologize for the misfortune that has befallen you,” he said.
He said some people had accused him of protecting the new settlers in exchange for money, a claim he denied.
“We have grievances because we also want part of the land that the ex-tenants have settled on, but we are waiting for the DC’s office to sort the issue out, and tell us the way forward,” Chivala said.
In his address, Mchinji Police Officer In-charge, Maximas Bakali assured the victims of police protection and that the perpetrators would be brought to book.
“It is unfortunate that such an incident happened. As Police we will make sure that there is peace in the area. I urge heads of nearby villages to urge their subjects to coexist with the ex-tenants until the DC’s office sort their issue,” he added.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :