Citizens’ campaign to reclaim idle land from estate owners in Mulanje and Thyolo districts has received a boost from Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), which is calling for urgent government action on the long-standing issue.
The commission’s position follow engagements with Peoples Land Organisation (PLO) leader Vincent Wandale and two notices he served on the State institution regarding the issue.
In his first notice, dated December 31 2020, he wanted to declare the independence of the African Traditionalist Monarchy of the United States of Thyolo and Mulanje while his follow-up notice, dated February 11 2021, was aimed at informing MHRC about his intention to proceed with the inauguration and swearing-in of the said State.
Wandale also asked MHRC to determine whether PLO’s declaration of the State and the plans for inauguration were within the exercise of the right to self-determination as guaranteed in various international human rights instruments.
But, in her response to the notices, MHRC executive secretary Habiba Osman said while the land question was a serious problem in the two districts, the issue of making a determination was outside the commission’s mandate.
However, the commission said basing on several submissions it had received from various stakeholders, including the PLO leader and Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Cdedi) as well as its own preliminary fact-finding and consultations, it was of the view that a long-lasting solution to the land question needed to be found.
“While this may be broadly addressed in the ongoing land laws review, there is need for government to come up with clear short-term and long-term strategies to address the plight of many landless Malawians in Thyolo and Mulanje. This requires an urgent response from government,” reads the MHRC letter dated June 29 2021 addressed to Wandale.
However, MHRC said it would continue engaging and monitoring the land issue as part of its mandate and where possible advise on all human rights related issues developing in the area.
In a related matter, in March this year, the British High Commission in Lilongwe told Cdedi it hoped the landless people in the two districts, estate owners and other parties would come together and work on an agreement that would benefit all parties.
But in a letter to Cdedi executive director Sylvester Namiwa the High Commission said that it was not within the mandate of the Her Majesty’s Government, or the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to be involved in private land disputes of this nature
Namiwa had written the British High Commission to intervene on the land issues in Thyolo and Mulanje.
Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa was not available yesterday for comment, but the ministry’s spokesperson Enock Chingoni said while they are aware of the long-standing land disputes in the two districts, he needed time to consult relevant authorities before responding to the recent developments.