BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—In the just ended parliament session, members of parliament passed different bills but the one that has become exceptional is the customary land bill which many Malawians including opposition parties have strongly condemned saying it is not in favour of the poor Malawians.
As of now, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the country have announced that they will on July 25 2016 hold demonstrations against the bill.
This was been disclosed in a short statement posted by one of the human right activist in the country, Billy Mayaya who also happened to be part of the organizing team.
However, Malawi Government through Minister of Information Communications Technology and Civic Education Patricia Kaliati has come out of the cocoon to trash the information being spread on the just passed Customary Land bill by the National Assembly, saying the bill is being misinterpreted.
Section 26:2 (c) of the customary land reads: “the occupier shall pay any applicable rent, fees, charges, taxes and other requirements, in respect of his occupation of the land.”
But in a statement, Kaliati said by quoting and spreading contents of this clause in isolation and reading it out of context , the intention is to create in the public a false impression that under the Customary Land Act, every Malawian will be subjected to paying for their own land.
“The fact of the matter is that the above purported clause being spread on social media is talking about conditions of a Customary Estate in Section 26. This Section needs to be read from Section 24 (1) which says “A land committee may require the payment of a fee on the grant of customary estate to an organization or body.”
“Clearly therefore, “the occupier” being referred to in paying “any applicable rent, fees, charges, taxes and other requirements” is a condition for an organization or body (a Customary Estate) taking possession of customary land,” said Kaliati.
She added: “It must be noted that in the new law customary land is defined as belonging to chiefs and administered to Chief’s subjects as has been the case for a long time in Malawi. Individual Malawians will continue to hold their land as personal for free, unless an individual chooses and decides to register or lease their own land for perpetuity upon which the administrative costs of the leasing process shall apply. Such an individual may further decide to rent out the leased land for a fee to any organization or body.”
She said that it is not true that government under the new law is to dispossess Malawians of their land, saying the new law is intended to empower Malawians over their customary land and provide more land security.
“The public is also hereby advised to realize that any clause or section of any Act must be read in the context of the whole law and the totality of its spirit. Further, the public is also advised that the law must be read in relation to other laws. Most immediately, the Customary Land Act needs to be read along with the Land Registration Act. Besides, Malawi has 14 land related acts.
“We advise the public to take with very extreme caution and question any pieces of land laws being circulated on social media with the intent of creating public panic. The best practice is to disregard them and wait for authoritative information to be disseminated to the public once the acts have been assented to by the State President. We are aware that the public needs appropriate information on land because this is a matter that affects us all,” said kaliati.
Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Atupele Muluzi has also complemented the sentiments of the information minister saying the with the passing of the land bill, individuals in local community will be empowered.
“In its current status, customary land cannot be used as security to obtain a loan from the bank. When government is acquiring such land for public use, compensation is not paid for the land itself because it is considered as having no value.
“With the passing of the Land Bill and the Customary Land Bill, individuals in the local community will now have an opportunity to register this land. This means that they will be recognised as the private owners of the land,” Muluzi said in an interview with the local media.
Meanwhile several stakeholders have warned the DPP led government to tread carefully on the matter.