Police in Lilongwe yesterday reportedly arrested self-acclaimed leader of the people of Thyolo and Mulanje, Vincent Wandale.
Zodiak Broadcasting Stadion quoted him as saying he had just been arrested and the police were taking him into custody.
On Thursday, Wandale mobilised hundreds of villagers who invaded a privately-owned Conforzi Tea Estate with an aim of distributing part of the estate land they claim has laid idle for many years.
Scores of police officers drawn from Southern Region Police Headquarters, Bvumbwe Police Sub- Station and Thyolo Police Station, thwarted the intended action by firing tear gas at the villagers, arresting 16 of them in the process.
Southern Region Police spokesperson Joseph Kadadzera said in an interview Saturday that the number of people arrested has now risen to 22.
Kadadzera said some of them appeared before court on Friday to be told why they were being held before they were remanded at Blantyre Prison (Chichiri).
One of the charges the group is facing, according to police, is unauthorised use of land.
In a comical sounding press statement, which Wandale issued on Friday before his arrest, he says: “Traditionalist Government of the United States of Thyolo and Mulanje was declaring a state of war against foreign aggression from Republic of Malawi.”
Wandale accuses Malawi of violating The Hague Peace Convention (III) of 1907, which he says provides that hostilities
between nations must not begin without previous and explicit warning.
He said the declaration of war was necessitated by the unprovoked aggressive action unleashed by the Malawi Government armed police on the peaceful citizens of the African Traditionalist republic who were receiving uncultivated
colonial estate land in Thyolo as per notice issued on July 28 2016.
But Malawi Government, in a press statement issued through Ministry of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education, warns that what the villagers did was encroachment, which is illegal.
The statement, signed by Information Minister Patricia Kaliati, says Conforzi was a privately-owned tea plantation, an agricultural business; and as such, it has to conform to a number of international standards that include ensuring that sufficient land is left to conserve natural habitat.