THYOLO-(MaraviPost): The Malawi Police in Thyolo on Thursday arrested over 16 villager’s loyalists to Peoples Land Organization (PLO) for invading private-owned Conforzi Estate to share part of the area among themselves.
The 16 villagers arrested comprised of 10 women and six men among them the PLO’s vice chairperson Chrispin Nkhoma and Secretary Precious Lester.
The villagers including men, women with babies on their back carried hoes, pots and beddings stormed Conforzi Tea Estate to grab it while claiming that the land.
The arrest came after PLO and tea estate owners failed to negotiate on the villager’s demands that have no place to cultivate and settle with their families.
According to correspondent on the site tension started simmering as early as 9am when the police officers drawn from Southern Region Police Headquarters in Blantyre,
Substation and Thyolo assembled at the targeted area.
The police officers were about six kilometers deep into the estate to stop the villagers from undertaking their intended actions.
After failed negotiations, police officers invited 16 leaders of the PLO at the Boma for further discussions.
But the police diverted the leaders to Blantyre and proceeded to Chilomoni police substation where were put under arrest.
However, news of arrest of the 16 sparked anxiety back in Thyolo and after police realised that the situation was getting worse warned the villagers eventually started firing teargas to disperse the angry communities.
Consequently, villagers started stoning back at the police officers while other started putting the bushy estate on fire.
The development comes barely four months in April this year PLO leader Vincent Wandale declared Thyolo and Mulanje as independent states calling it the “United States of Mulanje and Thyolo” purportedly on behalf of the group.
Wandale gave government up to September 1 to resolve the land issue by giving them back their forefather’s land or would start distributing among themselves.
Despite the arrests the villagers have vowed to continue to claim their land with the similar exercise in all estates of the districts.
Meanwhile, PLO has hired lawyer Jai Banda to defend them.
The PLO has been agitating for the local people’s occupation of all idle tea estates land in the districts since its establishment in 2009.
The Organisation has been demanding that estates owners pay £65 (about K53 000) per acre per year for all used colonial estate land from 1914 to date.
PLO has also been requesting from the estates owners a wage rate of £6.13 per hour (about K5 000) per individual for those who were involved in Thangata (bonded labour) between 1914 and 1963.