Hundreds of people from three villages that were sold in Mchinji face eviction at the peak of decades of land dispute with Exagris Mchinji Limited which owns the 800-hectare Mchaisi Estate in the district.
Court summons we have seen show that the company wants the High Court to grant it an injunction ordering the villagers to vacate the land within 28 days.
The company further wants the court to grant a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from dealing with the land situated in Dickson Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Dambe in Mchinji and a declaration that the claimant is the rightful owner.
The summons identifies group village head Kumkwala as first defendant, village heads Kayembe, White and Juddie as well as a Mr Sikochi and other unidentified persons as the other defendants.
The court records show that in December 2008, the company acquired 800.4 hectare from Yiannakis Brothers Farms Limited.
Reads the summons in part: “Investigations conducted by the claimant indicate that the first defendant is the one who instigated all the other village chiefs to encroach onto the land and no tangible reason was given as to why the first defendant ordered the people so.
“The claimant had been enjoying quiet possession since acquiring the land until around 2012 when the defendants and their families encroached onto the said land and started living and cultivating on the said land.”
But on their part, the villagers argue that the affected villages and farming land in dispute pre-exist the establishment of the
estate and that the estate is encroaching on their side following change of ownership.
Kumkwala, who has no legal representation, said in an interview that the company was seeking to move them away from land which it has no legal claim.
He said: “We have been in this village since 1976. I have 13 village heads under my chieftainship, but today they are telling us that our villages are inside the farm and we must leave.
“When the current management of the estate came in 2008, they approached us to allow their livestock to be graze in our areas and when the animals started grazing, they connived with people from surveys department who started surveying the area in 2012 and included the land that belong to us. We protested and the company admitted wrong doing.”
The villagers maintain that the land claimed by the estate includes all the villages, but they allege they were being offered to stay in the villages and only give away their farm land.
Land wrangles are on the rise in the country and in some cases have turned ugly with violent clashes.
During his recent President’s Question Time in Parliament, President Lazarus Chakwera ordered a review of all land-related laws to address various concerns over land usage and ownership