Mulanje orphans get ‘their land’ back from Mulli

Friends of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO) a charitable organisation looking after more than 5,000 orphans has finally got back the land which was grabbed by powerful business magnate during the late President Bingu Mutharika’s reign, Leston Mulli.

Thousands of orphans from FOMO’s 13 centres in Mulanje gathered at the disputed land at Chitakale in Mulanje where they held a party to celebrate their long struggle to get their land back.

Leading the celebrations which included dances and displays from the orphans, FOMO Founder Mary Woodworth thanked God that the battle has been won without any bloodshed.

FOMO children at the event to reclaim their land back

“It’s overwhelming. I don’t know what to say really. After that long struggle to get our own land back without bloodshed, is really something amazing, God is behind all this,” said Woodworth, a British of Malawian origin.

Long battle

The land dispute started when Mulli bought Chitakale Plantations Limited in Mulanje and demanded a land which borders the estate and belongs to Woodworth and her family.

He took the Woodworth and her Aunt Lisnet Gremu to court over the piece of land and the High Court ruled in favour of the two women.

But in a show of malice and contempt, Mulli refused to let the land go and put his armed guards on the land while awaiting an appeal.

The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal too found in favour of the two women and still Mulli, who was a close friend of the late President Mutharika, refused to give up the land.

Instead he engineered that Woodworth be arrested for criminal trespass on her own land which the most top court in the Country, the Supreme Court had just declared that it belonged to her.

Then it was the turn of Woodworth’s lawyer Patrick Mpaka to be intimidated. He had two petrol bomb attacks at his house one which hit his car but was put off on time to avoid a huge damage.

In a surprise development, government, through former minister of Lands, John Bande, now Minister of Trade grabbed the land from Woodworth and gave it to businessman and Mulli’s business protégé Dave Kanyoza.

However, when Mutharika succumbed to a cardiac arrest on April 5, 2012, everything changed and the once powerful Mulli was put in his right place, an ordinary businessman and he lost control of the land.

Woodworth delight

“This is a celebration of our struggle really. We didn’t have guns or weapons, we only had God on our side and it is nice that everyone is here to tell the tale. I hope people will learn lessons from this,” said Woodworth.

“It has been four years of fighting to get what was already ours and although we were provoked and intimidated, we put God in everything we were doing and look at what has happened now, we are here celebrating with the children and the police officers are here not to arrest us but celebrate with us,” added Woodworth.

She, however, said when Mulli and Kanyoza guards were leaving the place, they injected the bananas with ‘something’ and the bananas are now turning yellow.

“Obviously we cannot keep these bananas because we don’t know what they injected them with but the good thing is that we got our land back finally. As you know we grow different crops and vegetables to feed the children on this land and we will destroy these bananas and plant new ones to protect the children,” she said.

Chiefs grateful

Traditional chiefs present at the function also hailed Woodworth for her determination not to allow Mulli get the land.

“We want to thank Woodworth for her fighting spirit, if she had gave in, we don’t know what we would have done with these orphans,” said Village Headman Mwamadi.

“We prayed hard for Mary (Woodworth) when she was arrested together with other orphans for claiming her own land. Orphans were tear gassed when they protested her arrest but we prayed to God to show these people the light and today God has answered our prayers,” chipped in Group Village Headman Chisinkha.

Village Headman Kumwamba said it was sad that Mulli and the previous government disregarded court orders on the matter with impunity.

One of the orphans Jonathan Mkweza said he was happy that finally the orphans have got their land back.

Woodworth at the event

Mulanje orphans take over land

Woodworth meets President Banda

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