Malawi: Land Wrangles Emerge Between Civilians, Malawi Army Soldiers in Lilongwe

17 September 2020

Disagreements have emerged between civilians and Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers who are reportedly grabbing land forcefully from the former, Nyasa Times has learnt.

The people, from about 50 households, in Chitipi area which neighbours MDF's Airwing Base, say the behaviour of the soldiers is uncouth and an infringement of their rights to own ancestral land.

Nyasa Times understands that the battle between the civilians and the soldiers has been refusing to die over the years as the latter say they want expansion of their base.

Information we have indicates that MDF indeed proposed the expansion of their base but the department of lands watered down the idea with an argument that the land belongs to the people.

"We are aware of the disagreements between the MDF and civilians at Airwing. We have point blank told the men in uniform that if they want expansion they should talk to the people-who are the rightful owners of the land-and, obviously, these people have to be compensated for it," said an official from the central region lands headquarters in Lilongwe who asked not to be named because she is not authorised to speak to the media.

Euphomia Bota the acting Commissioner of Lands could not immediately comment.

One of the concerned civilians, Austin Chiziwa, who owns 0.299 hectares of family land told Nyasa Times on Thursday that they were surprised that government was mum on the matter.

"Several times we have complained of this and we are tired. We have for so long been using our inherited pieces of land for agriculture but now we want to develop since Lilongwe is hastily expanding.

"But when we embark on projects on our pieces of land, we are challenged by the soldiers who deny us the opportunity to do the same and yet some of them have taken over some pieces of land with claims that they own them," said Chiziwa, adding that they are now planning an unspecified action to vent out their anger.

Another complainant, Susan Chimbali, 37, and a mother of four, said it was better that the issue is sorted now once and for all.

A nurse by profession, she said: "We don't want our children and children's children to fall in the same predicament as is the case now with our friends in Mulanje and Thyolo. The powers-that-be must swiftly iron out this quagmire."

Legislator for the area, George Zulu, could not pick up his phone over four times on Thursday but Nyasa Times understands that him and the concerned civilians have booked an appointment with President Lazarus Chakwera on the same.

Chakwera had also a scheduled meeting with Vincent Wandale, of People's Land Organization (PLO), who is lobbying that land which was unfairly gotten in Mulanje and Thyolo during colonialists, leaving them landless, should be adequately compensated or their land given back.

Land is an extremely contentious issue in Malawi. Many of the country's political elite are themselves profiting from land-seizures.

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