Emmanuel Mlaka
Emmanuel Mlaka

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The country’s grouping that advocates for proper land governance and administration, Landnet Malawi has endorsed the recent approved land related bills despite some short falls in amendment clauses.Malawi Parliament last week passed four land related bills including Bill No.2 of 2016: Land Bill, Bill No.3 of 2016: Physical Planning, Bill No.6 of 2016: Land Survey and Bill No.9 of 2016: Customary Land.

This means that there is a daunting task ahead to approve the remaining six related land bills including Registered, Land Acquisitions (Amendment), Local Government (Amendment), Malawi Housing (Amendment), Forestry (Amendment) and Public Roads.

Landnet’s stand on the approved land bills comes amid dissatisfaction from opposition legislators who walked out of the chamber following retrogressive amendments the Minister of Lands Atupele Muluzi made.

Muluzi made the amendments contrary to what was agreed by Parliamentary committees on related land bill such as natural resources, women caucus, agriculture and legal affairs.

The August house went into pandemonium particularly in two critical bills; the principal land bill and customary land bill.

On Land bill, the committees which comprised of 90 lawmakers recommended that freehold status should be abolished and that be deleted of Clause 9(2) and clause 9(3) and that Clause 9(2) be replaced with another clause to read: “(2) Freehold land acquired by a person prior to the commencement of this Act shall be converted to leasehold interest.

Despite such recommendation, the Lands Minister Muluzu went a head into the House with bill without the recommended amendment which gives more opportunities to large estate owners who acquired the land during colonial era to have land freely.

While on Customary Bill, section 27 (2) (c) prescribes payment of fees once customary estate has been granted. This according to lawmakers was not practical clause considering that most rural people have low income to pay such charges.

Though the house went into division, government side won the vote as opposition was less in numbers.

Consequently, the bill was passed without further amendments as the committee withdrew other remain amendments arguing that government wasn’t trust worthy and accused it for bulldozing the bills.

Addressing a news conference on Friday night in the capital Lilongwe, Emmanuel Mlaka, Landnet Malawi’s National Coordinator while acknowledging the short falls accompanied by the passed bills expressed gratitude that strides have been made for the battle started 14 years ago (since 2002).

Mlaka said the grouping fully supports the passing of the bills for a number of concrete reasons that the new bill puts land governance and administration under status as opposed to customary law.
He said the bill harmonizes the existing legal framework with the aspirations of the Malawi National Land Policy (MNLP).

Not only that but the bill also provide for public participation in the administration and management of land related matters.

Mlaka further added that the laws will also facilitate the domestication of the international standards for compensations and compulsory resettlements.

“The land bills provide social protection and social development including safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups especially women by ensuring equitable access to land, tenure security and sustainable socio-economic development.

“It must be noted also that the new provision in the bills are creation of customary estate, formalization of the role of chiefs in land administration, adjustment of interests in customary land, establishment of land committees at various levels and customary land dispute settlement mechanism.

“Therefore, when we weigh all these advantages the bills have, Landnet feels unpractical for the country fail to have such law with the best interests of Malawians. It’s better to have these laws in place than keep on having reviews which we think are now enough,” said Mlaka.

The Landnet Coordinator said clearly supports the provision of section 27 ( c) that prescribes payment of fees once customary estate has been granted arguing that such charges are for transactional fees not rent.

“Malawians should desist from harnessing a poverty mentality where all services must be at no cost to the consumer of the services. People will always afford to pay what they value.

“This is why in the pre-democracy regime, people in some districts could not afford to pay fees for their child in schools but the same people could happily afford to pay five times as much to have child released from an initiation ceremony.

“It must be born in mind that with decentralization of land administration, the said fees will be retained within the traditional management area to carter for land administration cost or other relevant development. Thus, were are urging the President Mutharika to assent these bills for a start while the rest queries noted can be sorted out later,” urges Mlaka.

Landnet is a network of 43 civil society member organization plus seven individuals whose work is directly related to land and environment.

With untiring technical and financial support from partners including International Land Coalition (ILC), Oxfam, UFAO, UN Women, and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Landnet has carried out aggressive advocacy campaigns for land law reforms since 2002.

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