Communities from Thyolo and Mulanje have rubbished and disowned a December 17 2015 ultimatum for the declaration of the two districts as a sovereign State if their protracted wrangle with tea estate owners is not resolved.
The grounds for the declaration were reportedly approved by members of the People’s Land Organisation (PLO) during a general congress held on November 26 2015 in Thyolo. They also issued a 21-day general notice to concerned parties to resolve the matter or else the two districts will form their own country.
However on Friday, some PLO members together with their counterparts from Citizens for the Protection of
Mulanje Mountain (CPM) organised a press briefing in Thyolo, where they described the ultimatum as baseless and unfounded.
They accused PLO president, Vincent Wandale, who chaired the November 26 meeting of personalising the matter, and have since withdrawn his membership from the group.
They have also written a letter of apology to district commissioners (DCs) of the two districts for Wandale’s conduct, arguing that what he said does not represent the wishes and views of members of the two groups.
CPM spokesperson Bon Kalindo, who is also parliamentarian for Mulanje South, said it is unfortunate that after all negotiations and President Peter Mutharika’s intervention on the matter, Wandale decided to take a different path.
“We met with the President on the 15th of October this year and presented our issues that people in the two districts have no land to cultivate on. We want estate owners to give us back our ancestral land which they acquired illegally and start paying enough wages to their labourers; we are patiently waiting for the President’s response,” he said.
PLO Executive Director Chrispin Nkhoma said Wandale never consulted the grouping on the issue.
“We cannot achieve anything by violence, but through contact and dialogue. The President, who is also from Thyolo understands the problems we are in and we are optimistic that he will help us,” Nkhoma said.
However, in an interview on Saturday, Wandale maintained that the decision was made at a meeting where over 400 members were present, including all committee members.
“During the meeting, people started suggesting that the two districts be declared a sovereign state. As President, I called for a vote on the matter and after voting it came out that the majority supported the idea.
“I even warned them of the implications but they insisted and pressurised me to draft a letter about the decision they had taken,” argued Wandale.
Land wrangles between estate owners and indigenous people from the two districts date back to 2009. Currently, PLO has 14980 members while CPM has 21980 members.