Land ownership and landlessness is not an issue that should be trivialised, no matter how irrelevant it may sound to some. Many countries around the world are grappling with the challenge of landlessness and inequality of land ownership.
History tells 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 a major contributing factor to poverty in Malawi.
The rich have power—economic power, to buy vast 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 that the rich, who use their economic and political power, sometimes 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 Corporation Estates. The estate owners left very little land for the villagers to cultivate, which in turn translated to very little agricultural production, leading to little economic gains, amid increasing poverty.
I sympathise with the people of Thyolo and Mulanje and all other areas whose ancestral land was grabbed from them and they were left close to nothing.
It is for this 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 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 as I sympathise with my grandmother’s people at Jinga.
Wandale is not a loner is this cause, he has the support of the community—it doesn’t matter if they are small in number, at least he has people who support his cause and believe in his land movement.
Just a few days ago, renowned law professor, Edge Kanyongolo, sent an SOS through his Facebook page about some Rastafarians who are on the verge of losing their land and their temple. He was asking for lawyers to help, pro bono, these Rastafarians get back their land.
Government’s decision to pay a blind eye to what Wandale has been advocating for is not the best way to deal with the issue. 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.
Some people have called Wandale a madman, 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 it is government which is 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 the 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 might get out of hand.