Land ownership and landlessness is not an issue that should be trivialised no matter how irrelevant it may sound to some of us. Many countries around the world have grappled with the challenge of landlessness and inequality of land ownership.
History will tell us that many instabilities in the world have been due to the issue of land ownership. The widening gap between the rich and the poor, in terms of land ownership, is what I can say without fear of contradiction, has led to poverty in Malawi.
The rich have powers—economic power, to buy vast areas of land for farming or building while the poor, with no economic power, remain with little or no land for their socio-economic survival. The worst part is where we have the rich who use their economic and political power to grab the little land that the powerless have, hence exacerbating poverty.
I remember back in the days when my grandmother, who comes from Jinga in Mbalachanda, Mzimba district, used to talk about how her family lost the vast and fertile land to former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s Press Estates. The estate owners left very little land for the villagers to cultivate, which in turn translated to very little agricultural production, little economic gains and left in abject poverty.
I sympathise with the people of Thyolo and Mulanje, and all other areas whose ancestral land was grabbed from them, and left them with almost nothing.
It is for the reason, that I have not hidden my support for Vincent Wandale in as far as fighting for land ownership and land equality is concerned. Wandale’s call that government rethinks the land ownership with an aim of ensuring that the villagers have at least enough land they can use for their economic activities is not a lost cause neither is it a crazy idea.
I may not support Wandale’s secession idea, but when he talks of how landless ‘his’ people are, he speaks to me and I sympathise with him and ‘his’ people, just like I sympathise with my grandmother’s people at Jinga.
It looks like Wandale, has the support of the people. No matter how small their number is, at least he has people who support his cause and believe in his land movement.
Government’s decision to pay a blind eye to what Wandale is doing is not the best solution. If I were the one in power, I would at least listen to him, because for sure, he is speaking for the 100 plus people that follow him and believe in his movement. Whether he can really takeover the two districts, that is a discussion for another day.
There are so many people in Malawi who feel betrayed by either the colonial masters or by the zonse zimene n’za Kamuzu Banda (everything belongs to Kamuzu Banda) mantra of the one-party system of government, and indeed the rich and politically connected in our society in as far as land ownership is concerned.
It is just that Wandale has been bold enough to stand up and speak about it while many others complain quietly.
Some have called him a mad man, well in Malawi we have a saying; ‘Wamisala anaona nkhondo. I wonder if all of the people that rally behind him are all mad, too or its government living in denial that there are actually people out there who can stand up and speak out about the ills of the rich and powerful—the case of tea estate owners.
Wandale is building a movement, brick-by-brick. The sooner the authorities realise this and address the problem of landlessness and land inequality, the better. Otherwise, if one day the people in Jinga decide to go Wandale’s way, it may be too much to handle for government.