The United Kingdom (UK) has declined a request by Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Cdedi) to apologise and compensate Malawians in Thyolo and Mulanje districts who lost their land to British settlers.
The civil society organisation (CSO), in a letter dated March 19 2021, asked the UK to apologise to the concerned Malawians and compensate them for the land it said was forcibly taken away from them by the settlers.
Cdedi executive director Sylvester Namiwa channeled his organisation’s demands through British High Commission in Lilongwe.
But in its written response, the British High Commission Charge d’affaires Fiona Ritchie said it was not within the jurisdiction of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s government or the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to be involved in private land disputes overseas.
Reads the letter in part: “However, I can confirm that the property and assets of the Government of Nyasaland as well as the rights, liabilities and obligations of the Crown, were passed to the Government of Malawi under the Malawi Independence Order 1964.
“This was made under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act 1890 and the Malawi Independence Act 1964.”
Moving forward, the British Government advised people affected by the land issues, the landowners and other parties to work together on an agreement that would benefit all parties.
“Malawi is an independent, sovereign country and we trust that the Malawian people and their institutions will find a solution,” advised the British High Commission.
Namiwa commended the British Government for the response, but said their demands and the 90-day ultimatum given to the Malawi Government on June 18 2021 to resolve the issues in the two districts still stands.
In their petition signed by Namiwa to President Lazarus Chakwera delivered after demonstrations in Mulanje through the district commissioner in June, Cdedi, on behalf of the landless people in the districts, said Malawi is under land colonisation as most of the land, including all the prime land, is in the hands of foreign nationals.
Reads the petition in part: “The people of Mulanje District are living in fear, and are more or less like half human beings, since the only fundamental natural resource that sustains life, was violently grabbed from their ancestors at gun point by the white settlers from Britain.”
Cdedi demanded, among others, that government should surrender all idle land and make it accessible to its rightful owners, that the locals should form part of the shareholding of all the plantations, that the British Government should compensate the remnants whose forefathers were assaulted, and that estate owners should immediately stop using the police to unleash terror on innocent and unarmed people.
Meanwhile, the State-funded constitutional body, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), recently found complaints by Cdedi on alleged police brutality and land grabbing matter by white settlers in Thyolo and Mulanje legitimate.
Cdedi, which has been organising demonstrations in the two districts to push government to act, lodged two complaints with MHRC, inviting the constitutional body to probe police over alleged brutality and the long outstanding and delicate land issue.
In a written response, MHRC director of economic, social and culture rights Makhumbo Munthali said the commission will soon start investigating the matter.
He said: “The commission officially wrote Cdedi on the outcome of the assessment by its complaints handling committee that the commission had accepted to investigate the matter. We anticipate to start this investigation this July 2021.”
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera, in an interview, welcomed MHRC’s probe, saying Cdedi has done well to lodge its complaint against police with an independent constitutional body.