Self proclaimed leader of People’s Land Organisation (PLO), Vincent Wandale, on Wednesday showed the court graveyards as proof that locals in Thyolo are owners of the disputed land.
PLO is a grouping of people of Thyolo and Mulanje who are agitating to “reclaim” land from estate owners in the districts.
Wandale, who is accused of criminal trespassing, unauthorised use of land and conspiracy to commit misdemeanor, led the court to a graveyard which is inside Conforzi Plantations, where he gave testimony that the land belongs to the natives.
At least four of the five graveyards were viewed by the court and according to Wandale, this is enough proof that local people have been using the land for over 60 years.
One of the graveyards is located deep in the forest where the locals cleared part of it to show old graves which according to Wandale is a proof of the cause he is fighting for.
Looking composed and clad in Russian military jacket, under the control of heavily armed police, Wandale attempted to demonstrate how long locals from surrounding villages like Chibwana have been using part of the land “before being forced to leave”.
The accused also showed the court the uncultivated land which remains idle, saying PLO has been discussing with the estate owners to distribute the idle land but to no avail.
He disclosed that after meeting officials from the Ministry of Lands, it was agreed that Conforzi Estate should spare some land where the local people use as graveyard until the matter is resolved and he was surprised to see that the estate is extending to the prohibited land.
Among the locals of Chibwana Village, Wandale is their freedom fighter.
“He is fighting for our rights and we are proud of him. He is our hero and the true son of this place,” said one of the villagers.
Lawyer representing Wandale, Michael Chipeta, said the case is progressing well, adding that it will be up to Wandale to bring witnesses to give evidence.
“He has some witnesses but he will choose to bring them or testify on his own. It was important to come and give testimony at Conforzi so that the court can appreciate and have the real picture,” said Chipeta.
In the end, elders from the surrounding villages sought intervention from their ancestors at an old grave.