SALIMA (Maravi Post)—Landnet Malawi, a local non-governmental organization advocating on land issues has said that an avalanche of petitions delivered to Malawi government from Chiefs and Tea Estate owners expressing dissatisfaction as regards the 2016 Land Bill will delay the passing of the said bill into law.The observation comes few days ahead of Parliament budget session which will commence this Friday and it is expected that the sitting will table the 2016 Land Bill.
Information Maravi Post has sourced indicate that Chiefs in Mzimba have petitioned government against the passing of the bill arguing that some sections in it contravene cultural values which says only Chiefs have powers to decide on land issues while the current bill recognizes the head of state as overall in-charge of the land governance in Malawi.
On the other side, the Association of Tea Growers from Thyolo and Mulanje districts presented its petition disagreeing with the bill clauses which bar foreigners to own land arguing the move has potential to derail investment in the country.
In an exclusive interview with The Maravi Post on Tuesday in the lakeshore district of Salima during the ongoing long-week training organized by Landnet on responsible land governance and best practices; Emmanuel Mlaka, Landnet Malawi’s National Coordinator told the petitioners that the bill has interest of the locals.
Mlaka observed that the two groupings’ concerns are not valid to prevent the passing of the much awaited law arguing that other related land bills covers the issues they raised.
“The bill is very clear on land governance as land committees have been mandated to deal with any issues on the pieces of land where Chiefs are part of the forum. While on other side of tea growers, fears of derailing of investment is a non issue. Investment can be done on freehold land or leasehold land as it becomes public land.
“These concerns are coming at a wrong time when the fight for this bill is coming to the end. What we need as a nation is to support our legislators to pass this bill into law in order to bring sanity on land governance in Malawi. It’s only in this nation where foreigners own land but globally the practice is different as it favors locals,” said Mlaka.
With support from the International Land Coalition, Landnet’s orientation has drawn journalists from print, electronic and online houses with the expectation that the move will increase the understanding and use of Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of tenure (VGGT) on land, forest and fisheries in the context of food security for active participation in policy dialogue.
Malawi cabinet gazetted the Land Bill 2016 on February 22, 2016 and read it in the last 2015/2015 budget review session of Parliament. Former President Joyce Banda failed to assent it into law in 2013 due to protests from chiefs, women activists (Action Aid Malawi and NGO Gender Coordination Network) saying it was discriminatory to women and also that it was disregarding the role of Chiefs in land matters in the country.
The 2016 Land Bill comprises ten Land-related bills including Land, Customary, Registered, Land Acquisitions (Amendment), Physical Planning, Land Survey, Local Government (Amendment), Malawi Housing (Amendment), Forestry (Amendment) and Public Roads.