Protests Turn Ugly in Thyolo
Tension is still mounting at Khonjeni in Thyolo district where the past two days irate villagers destroyed Khonjeni estate property in anger of the arrest of 8 fellow villagers accused of encroaching into the estate.
A source says that on Saturday, armed police officers stormed Ngamwani village and arrested some villagers on allegation that they encroached the estate formerly General Farming Estate, a subsidiary of Press Agriculture.
“Angry villagers then stormed the estate and vandalized estate property mainly staff houses,” said the source.
Luchenza Police Officer-In-Charge Senior Superintendent Leonard Chipa told Zodiak Online that some villagers have been encroaching into the estate despite urging them to vacate the estate which belongs to businessman, Jimmy Korea Mpatsa.
Senior Superintendent Chipa said police moved in and arrested 8 people on Saturday and in anger the villagers destroyed estate property and abducted 5 guards.
“Our officers returned to the village on Sunday and they managed to rescue the guards and arrested 10 more people in connection to looting of estate property, abduction of five estate guards and encroachment. So in total we are keeping 18 people in our custody in connection to the Khonjeni incident,” said Senior Superintendent Chipa.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jimmy Korea Mpatsa who owns the estate says assessment on damaged property is yet to be done.
“I bought this 700 hectare estate ten years ago from Press Agriculture and we grow maize, pigeon peas, soya, and tobacco and also do livestock production on this farm and I was surprised in September when over 200 villagers started farming on my land farm,” said Mpatsa.
He said has been discussing with chiefs in the area to reason with their subjects and leave the land but the villagers continued encroaching the land up until he reported the matter to police.
According to Senior Superintendent Chipa, though it appears calm has returned to the area, officers are not taking chances and are still on the ground monitoring the situation.