Malawi Police in Thyolo on Friday detained for 20 minutes the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) executive director, Sylvester Namiwa, just as the activist was about to address landless people at Khonjeni in Thyolo.
Namiwa was, however, released unconditionally after being interrogated over his involvement in the land issues concerning the people of Thyolo and Mulanje and the estate owners.
The activist confirmed the development in an interview with Nyasa Times from Thyolo on Sunday.
Namiwa suspected that his detention had to do with the hard stance he has taken against the government’s failure to address grievances of people over land in the two districts.
“Their [police] intention was to block us from addressing the landless people who had gathered at Khonjeni. But after some interrogation, they let me go ahead with my meeting,” he said.
Meanwhile, CDEDI has written the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), appealing to the State-funded human rights watchdog to investigate alleged police assault, grievous harm, sexual harassment, corporal punishment and subsequent detention of unarmed men and women at Khonjeni and the surrounding villages of Kapichi, Salubeni, Beula and Ngamwani.
The incidents are reported to have happened between November 8-9, 2020.
The CDEDI boss laments in the letter that the acts by the law enforcers have always been intimidatory and dehumanizing to people whose only sin is to press for the reclamation of their ancestral inheritance.
“The most disturbing part of this gross abuse of human rights is that such atrocities were committed by the very same people that were supposed to protect the citizens’ lives and property, the Malawi Police Service. Our findings have revealed that victims are the landless people seeking to reclaim the land owned by General Farming, formerly Press Agriculture. We later discovered that the land was sold to a business mogul….,” reads part of the letter sent to MHRC Executive Secretary Habiba Osman and copied to the Office of the Ombudsman and the Inspector General of the Malawi Police.
MHRC acknowledged receipt of the complaint.