A row over land has arisen between Traditional Au¬thority Chikumbu of Mulanje and Mary Woodworth owner of Friends of Mulanje Orphans (Fomo) Nansomba Children Centre over the owner¬ship of a piece of land and a building which Woodworth has been using as a feeding centre for orphans since 2003.
T/A Chikumbu and chiefs under her authority are said to have ordered the centre to leave the place in order to give them chance to build a village polytechnic.
But Woodworth has refused to bulge claiming that the land was donated to her by former T/A Chikumbu whose letter was seen by Malawi News but the current traditional authority has since de¬scribed it as a forged document.
According to Woodworth, T/A Chikumbu has been pestering the centre to be moved else¬where against the earlier agree¬ment with the same authority.
"She told us to close the centre and vacate the place and if it was not for the interventions of other stakeholders like the MP of the area things would have gone out hand," she said.
"At the moment we are unsure whether to spend more money on the centre or not, but of late we have been feeding the children five days a week, paying their school fees, medical bills, providing clothes, school materi¬als, running a nursery school, we sank two boreholes, and we are using the land to produce food crops.
"Now the situation is affect¬ing the children psychologically as they are not sure whether Fomo will continue to support them," added Woodworth.
Records at the District Com¬missioner's office indicate that the land under dispute used to be under Malawi Young Pioneers and reverted to customary land after 'Operation Bwezani' in 1993.
However T/A Chikumbu dis¬putes the letter which is said to have been written by her mother who was in charge at the time Fomo settled on the land.
"There are two things here, firstly it is not true that we are forc¬ing the centre out as we cannot chase our own children. All we are saying is that, the land belongs to chiefs who are giving them another land. Besides the letter which is said to have been written by the then T/A Chikumbu is fake, I have seen it myself" she said.
When told about the false document claim, Woodworth re¬torted, "the letter was not forged, we are not business people, all what we do is to give help to the orphans. The previous T/A re¬quested this help for the children hence her donating the land and building to us.
"The letter was followed up with another one of endorsement from the DC. This was further fol¬lowed up at the suggestion of the DC to get Department of Lands to survey and record the property which was done in 2004."
In his response, Mulanje Dis¬trict Commissioner Jack Nguluwe said his office is currently handling the issue.
"We have looked all over our records and have not found forms that support the claim that the land belongs to Woodworth. In the absence of that evidence we cannot say that Fomo leased the land. What is important now is that the two sides should sit down and iron out their differences. Our office will sit them down this month," Nguluwe said.