Police in Thyolo have arrested 11 people who led a demonstration some irate villagers staged on Wednesday afternoon in a quest to repossess 250, 000 hectares of land from various tea estates in the district.
The demonstration, sprouted from Chibwana village, was organised by a Thyolo-based Peoples Land Organisation (PLO), which is leading calls to repossess idle land from tea estates to be distributed to some of subsistence farmers that have little or no land to cultivate.
Thyolo Police Public Relations Officer, Edith Kachotsa told Nyasa Times in an interview that the villagers did not seek permission to stage the demonstration.
According to Kachotsa, the villagers led by PLO staged another unlawful demonstration on Monday but they were forced to call it off after being advised by the police to seek permission before taking their grievances to streets.
However, on Wednesday the irate villagers decided to bypass the law once more and started protesting; chanting songs threatening authorities of civil unrest if not permitted to take over 25,000 hectares of land in some of the tea estates that has been idle for about 50 years.
“We have since charged those arrested with unlawful assembly and will be in court soon. They (eleven) are the ones who led today’s protest. They were advised to call it off but they ignored the advice, and they even threatened to set tea fields on fire if we don’t allow them to proceed; but we successfully defused the protest without any problem,” Kachotsa said.
She added: “This is a long standing issue; they (PLO) have been at District Commissioner’s (DC) office several times, but it seems they are failing to reach compromise as the villagers are not relenting on their mission to repossesses the said land, which they claim has never been cultivated for over 50 years”.
Kachotsa disclosed there were no riots or looting during today’s demonstration, which started at around 1pm and was stopped at around 4pm.