The fiasco at Chinkhota 1 in Lilongwe that has left 200 families without crucial land on which to cultivate and sustain themselves smacks of a recklessness and negligence by government that should not be tolerated.
That 200 bonafide Malawians are not able face the threat of starvation when acres of land lie unused reflects badly on our state as a nation. Indeed, the villagers willingly sold their land, or where forced to by the government to make way for Madonna's billion dollar girls academy. And indeed, that was a worthy cause for which the land should have been used. And yes, the land no longer belongs to the villagers. But there are certain aspects that need to be taken into consideration before conclusions can be drawn.
First, when they approached the villagers to negotiate for the land, it was the responsibility of both the central government and local government authorities to ensure that the villagers were relocated and they had suitable land to cultivate their crops. Giving them money to fend for themselves was not a viable solution.
Secondly, we have been told by Madonna herself that she has no intention of building that academy at Chinkhota, which renders the project abandoned. We believe it is only sensible if the villagers were allowed access to the land.
While we acknowledge the fact that the villagers are to blame too for allowing themselves to sell their land without seeking an alternative, we do so in the knowledge that, at the end of the day, it is government's responsibility to ensure that its citizenry are allowed to exercise their right to farm.
Any government that watches its people starve to death while acres of land lie unused has no soul.
These villagers are not begging for food aid. They are not seeking alms or food aid from government. All they want is land to cultivate their crops and live a simple life as they know it. Whatever the circumstances, government has a responsibility to ensure that these people should have access to land and a livelihood.
Furthermore, there are allegations flying around to the effect that the villagers were short-changed in the land deals. We would want to call upon the relevant to conclude investigations and deal with the culprits, should any be discovered.
If it in indeed true that the villagers were fleeced as they claim, this paints a bad picture of local government officials and we call upon the culprits to be brought to book.