Irate villagers from Traditional Authority Somba in Mpemba, Blantyre, have vowed to shed someoneâ€™s blood or die before they give up about 10 000 hectares of land which the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) claims it owns.
In a dispute that has roots that run back to 1968, the villagers, led by Sydney Sukali, say the land was once forcibly taken away from them by a white man and this time they are not going to be tricked again.
“They burned our food barns, they destroyed our houses and made us beg burial space from other villages, but with the population growth, we have nowhere to go. Imagine, 20 villages being displaced. Itâ€™s a big group of about 1 500 people that is desperate out there and if we are not getting our land back, blood will flow.
“We have taken our issue to the Traditional Authority Somba, the district commissioner and even Peopleâ€™s Party officials and we are going to petition Madam President Banda to help fight for our land,” said Sukali.
On Friday, they stormed Blantyre High Court where they are being sued by MAM which wants them to stop using the land.
The originating summons of the case, land matter number 16 of 2012, says MAM is suing the villagers for encroaching Gada Farm over which the organisation claims ownership and has documents supporting its case.
“..Around June 1986 the plaintiffs bought the land from Gada Company Limited which was then in Receivershipâ€¦conveyance was duly effected in favour of the plaintiffs on the 25th June 1986,” reads part of the Affidavit signed by the Salmin Omar and Osman Chilombo of MAM.
But Sheik Idrissa Muhammad, MAM national chairman, called the villagers “savages.”
“The people are savages. We have got papers. We pay city rates yearly, how can they then own it?” wondered Muhammad.
He said MAM allowed the people to farm the land and when it wanted to use it the villagers did not let go.
He said the matter would not have gone to court had the villagers not behaved â€˜savagely, up to threatening the owners with bows and pangas.â€™
He said MAM bought the land from National Bank of Malawi which bought it from veteran politician Gwanda Chakuwamba.
He said Chakuamba bought the land from a white man.
Muhammad said he does not understand where the villagers have been all this time.
But the villagers say they do not know or remember having received any payment for their land.
The Friday case was adjourned after MAM reportedly told the court that it was not ready. The villagers say they also have problems with the matter going to the High Court in Blantyre when they have a court in Mpemba.
“We were there long before white people came and the Muslims have also just arrived from wherever they are coming from. We are not for war; we are just a hungry people. We have our graves and old mango trees on the land and that is proof enough that we own the land,” said Kingston Malinda, another of the villagers.