People’s Land Organisation (PLO) leader Vincent Wandale on Tuesday walked from court after Senior Resident Magistrate Thoko Soko handed him a suspended sentence.
He was convicted last Thursday on three counts of conspiracy to commit a misdemeanour, unauthorised use of land and criminal trespass in which the court has convicted him but his accomplice, Tendai Nsikita, was acquitted of the same charges.
Wandale was arrested on September 3 in Lilongwe in connection to an incident that happened on September 1 at Conforzi Tea Estate in Thyolo where hundreds of villagers invaded the estate and started sharing land for permanent settlement and cultivation.
But Senior Resident Magistrate Soko did not jail the guilty land grabber saying she had to balance justice and mercy because he was a first offender.
The court however ordered Wandale to present three sureties and enter into a bond of K100,000.
However, she noted that because of his failure to follow proper channels to address land challenges in Thyolo and Mulanje, Wandale’s actions had threatened the security of the country.
She added that his declaration of Thyolo and Mulanje as a sovereign state could have caused chaos.
The magistrate noted that the so-called independence of Thyolo and Mulanje that Wandale was advocating was endorsed by only about 3,000 people when each of the two districts has more than 500,000 people.
Wandale’s lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta hailed the Magistrate for not imposing a custodial sentence.
“Land is a major issue in Thyolo and the government is not willing to address it. My client has found himself on the wrong side of the law because he wanted to address an issue that the government is not interested to solve,” said Chipeta.
He the court for applying “lenience” by giving Wandale suspended sentence.
In brief interview, Wandale said he will fight on to find a solution to the long standing issue of shortage of land in Thyolo and Mulanje.
He said the government of Malawi cannot force allegiance from the people of Mulanje and Thyolo. It has lost the trust of the people.
“We will claim back our land that was stolen from our ancestors by the whites,” said Wandale.
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