Confusion has infested the struggle for the repossession of idle land in tea estates of Thyolo and Mulanje with leaders of People Land Organisation (PLO), a grouping that is steering the campaign, taking different routes.
Last month, Vincent Wandale who claims to be the supreme leader, founder and trustee of PLO, issued a 21-day ultimatum to government to address the issue or else the two districts would become a sovereign State.
But PLO board chair John Henry Pindani together with leader of Citizens for the Protection of Mulanje (CPM), Bon Kalindo, dismissed Wandales threats.
The group that organised a press conference to dismiss Wandale’s assertion met President Peter Mutharika on a Monday to assure him that the two districts will not secede.
In an interview on Thursday, Pindani and Kalindo confirmed meeting Mutharika at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre where they dismissed the ultimatum and assured him of continued dialogue.
“What Mr Wandale is saying is not the position of PLO. He is doing that unilaterally as such we decided to suspend him until he apologises. That is why we assured the President that that will not materialise but we will continue engaging in dialogue until a solution is found,” explained Pindani.
But Wandale in a separate interview reiterated that nobody had the powers to fire him except the general assembly which elected him, adding that he would continue fighting for people of Thyolo under the PLO.
He has since backtracked on his earlier threat of declaring Thyolo and Mulanje an independent State called African Traditionalists Republic of the United States of Thyolo and Mulanje (Must).
He said: “The mere fact that I, Vincent Wandale, is speaking for PLO [pro-independence] and Hon Kalindo is speaking for government [against independence] means that there is need for a referendum vote on the question of independence to settle the matter once and for all. I on behalf of the PLO, therefore, requests the Government of Malawi and the United Nations [UN] to promptly set aside a date for the people of Thyolo and Mulanje to vote in a referendum on this question of independence.”
Wandale said should government show no interest to hold the referendum then it must act on the demands so that the PLO members “abandon the sovereign State resolution”.
On his part, Kalindo said whether government wants it or not, citizens of Mulanje and Thyolo deserve to be given the idle land.
“The only person to resolve the issue is the President of this country and we will continue engaging in dialogue until he makes a decision. However, we will not follow the route of Mr Wandale,” said Kalindo.
The PLO has been agitating for the local people’s occupation of all idle tea estates land in the districts since its establishment in 2009 and has been demanding that estates owners pay £65 (about K53 000) per acre per year for all used colonial estate land from 1914 to date.
The organisation has also been demanding from the estates owners a wage rate of £6.13 per hour (about K5 000) per individual for those who were involved in Thangata (bonded labour) between 1914 and 1963. n