Push has come to shove. That is what Kasungu District Council officials realised yesterday morning when some 200 ‘homeless’ ex-tobacco estate tenants—representing over 10 000 of their colleagues and family members in Kasungu District—camped at the council offices.
They demanded to be transported to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa where they claimed government may treat them more humanely as refugees in their own country.
The move was what the tenants described as their last-ditch effort to declare to the government that they were tired of being given false promises and being subjected to a status that is lower than that of refugees by not being shown compassion, and being resettled, after living in camps for over four years.
The ex-tobacco tenants came with blankets, some cloths, firewood and firewood, demanding that they would be staging a vigil until the government transported and relocated them to Dzaleka.
The two-page petition stated that the action was taken after experiencing many problems such as being denied farming land.
“We demand that the government should transport us to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa to mingle with our suffering colleagues from other countries, so that, perhaps, we may also receive better government assistance,” it lamented in part.
Recently-transferred Kasungu District commissioner (DC) James Kanyangalazi told The Nation that although the issue they were expressing concerns about is a very serious one, the ex-tenants were orderly as they went about what was to be a peaceful sit-in.
“Although they were determined to camp here until the council and the other offices concerned gave them their solutions, through the OPC [Office of the President and Cabinet], I commend these people because they went about their mission quietly and respectfully,” he added,
Kanyangalazi also thanked Reverend Flywell Somanje –who has been advocating for solutions for the ex-tenants for many years and who physically took the case to OPC last year– for having persuaded the complainants to turn their intended vigil into the presentation of a 21-day ultimatum that will give the government more time for solutions.