Land ownership and landlessness is not an issue that should be trivialised, no matter how irrelevant it may sound to some. Many countries around the world are grappling with the challenge of landlessness and inequality of land ownership.
History tells us that many instabilities in the world have been due to the issue of land ownership.
The widening gap between the rich and the poor in terms of land ownership is a major contributing factor to poverty in Malawi.
The rich have power—economic power, to buy vast land for farming or building while the poor, with no economic power, remain with little or no land for their socio-economic survival. The worst part is that the rich, who use their economic and political power, sometimes grab the little land that the powerless have; hence, exacerbating poverty.
I remember back in the day when my grandmother, who comes from Jinga in Mbalachanda, Mzimba District, used to talk about how her family lost their vast and fertile land to former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s Press Corporation Estates.
The estate owners left very little land for the villagers to cultivate, which in turn translated to very little agricultural production, leading to little economic gain amid increasing poverty.
I sympathise with the people of Thyolo and Mulanje and all other areas whose ancestral land was grabbed from them and they were left close to nothing.
It is for this reason that I have not hidden my support for Vincent Wandale and Sylvester Namiwa in as far as fighting for land ownership and land equality is concerned. Wandale and Namiwa’s calls for government to rethink the land ownership with an aim of ensuring that villagers have at least enough land to use for their economic activities is not a lost cause, neither is it a crazy idea.
I may not support Wandale’s secession idea but when he talks of how landless ‘his’ people are, he speaks to me and I sympathise with him and ‘his’ people just as I sympathise with my grandmother’s people.
Wandale and Namiwa are not alone in this cause, they have their communities’ support—it doesn’t matter if they are a few people, at least they have people who support their cause and believe in their land movement.
Somet time back, renowned law professor Edge Kanyongolo sent an SOS through his Facebook page about some Rastafarians who were on the verge of losing their land and their temple. He was asking for lawyers to help, pro bono, these Rastafarians to regain their land.
Government’s decision to pay a blind eye to what Wandale and Namiwa have been advocating for is not the best way to deal with the issue. If I were the one in power, I would at least listen to these two because for sure, they are speaking for the 100 plus people that follow them and believe in their movement.
Some people have called Wandale a mad person, well in Malawi we have a saying; Wamisala anaona nkhondo. I wonder if the people that rally behind him are all mad, too, or it is government which is living in denial that there are actually people out there who can stand up and speak out about the ills of the rich and powerful—the case of the estate owners.
Wandale is building a movement, brick by brick. The sooner the authorities realise this and address the problem of landlessness and land inequality, the better.
Otherwise, if one day the people in Jinga decide to go the Wandale and Namiwa way, things might get out of hand.