Villagers at the centre of a prolonged land dispute with Muslim Association of Malawi (Mam) in Mpemba, Blantyre, are facing starvation and have appealed to government and other well wishers to urgently address their plight.
Representatives of the villagers, from 27 villages in Traditional Authority Nsomba's area, launched the appeal in interviews during The Daily Times' visit to the area on Thursday last week.
According to Chairperson of the villagers' representatives committee, Sydney Sukali, up to 3,000 families caught up in the land dispute are all affected by the lack of food after they lost some of their crops following a court order obtained by Mam, stopping them from accessing their gardens.
The gardens sit on a 350 hectares land that both the villagers and Mam are claiming ownership.
On the one hand, the villagers claim that the land is their ancestral home while Mam, on the other hand, says it bought it.
Sukali, who described the food situation as severe, said it is worse for children and households headed by women and elderly people.
He said while appreciating that something is being done by the courts to resolve the land dispute, he argued it would have been proper for the authorities to come in and address the plight of the villagers.
"We have our trust and confidence in the court process, but as this process is taking its course lives of the people here need to be taken care of.
"We lost food before harvesting in the gardens and even though the rains have been good that people are likely to harvest enough food this year, to us it means nothing because we had nowhere to cultivate and grow our own crops.
"We hear there is food being distributed to people affected by hunger across the country and we are saying may we also be considered because we are in the same situation.
"Ahungry person is an angry person and considering the history in the course of this land dispute I believe this is a ticking bomb," said Sukali.
A visit to the area on Thursday showed that most of the disputed land has been cultivated by unknown people who have allegedly leased the land from Mam.
Minister of Information and Civic Education Moses Kunkuyu said the current relief food distribution exercise by the government is largely based on the findings of Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) and beneficiaries are identified basing on food shortage brought about by shortage of rainfall.
He, however, said the government may intervene if community leaders who include chiefs and Member of Parliament for the area their district commissioner.
"These people are facing food shortages because of other circumstances other than issues to do with rains.
"There are other programmes through which the government is assisting people requiring relief food due to other factors like the natural disasters. I am sure if the community leaders alerted relevant authorities as government we will respond accordingly," said.