They say a man’s home is his castle, but when that home that you have spent years of hard work paying for is not on land that you can own, it is a rather hollow investment. This is as true for an international manufacturing company looking to operate in Malawi, as it is a farmer in Mangochi.
Our land is perhaps our most precious and valued asset and as such the legislation that governs how our land is managed impacts every Malawian more than almost any other law. Reforms of this legislation have been discussed and debated since 1996, but with little progress. An initial set of recommendations was approved in 2002 but they did not address the scale of the changes required to ensure a fair, transparent and equitable structure. The aim of these reforms is to ensure that Malawians, who have cultivated, bled and sweat over the land they occupy, will now be able to own that land in perpetuity.
According to the Malawi National Land Policy (2002), 69% is customary land, 18% is public land, 10% is leasehold land and about 3% is freehold land. However, with the new laws with the moratorium on creation of freehold estates, the freehold land will remain at about 3%, leasehold land will be around 10%, public land for government use will approximately remain at 18%, while about 65% customary land will become customary estates (private land) and about 4% will be community’s public land comprising un allocated land communal use within Traditional Authority.
Customary land is managed by the chiefs through delegated powers from the Minister Responsible for Land Matters but they do not own it. However, this time they will manage it with other members of the land committee to ensure transparency and accountability.
Parliament has passed a series of significant changes under the National Land Policy that seeks to ensure that Malawians can feel confident that land transactions are conducted in a fair and equitable way. This will mean decentralising the administration of land to the people who know the local issues best, whilst ensuring that there is a central registration system that deliverstransparency and fairness for all. Finally, the reforms seek to improve the conservation of our lands and culture, management of our scarce resources to enhance the efficiency of how we use land through the development of clear planning strategies for both rural and urban environments.
Within the next 2 years the Ministry is committed to establishing a system that will ensure all Malawians have the opportunity to be able to own their own piece of the country. This will not be without its challenges though. It is going to require significant changes to our systems, structures and processes meaning that the Government is going to be supporting an education programme for everyone from administrators to the public.
With the creation of registered land titles, Malawians will be able to use their assets to secure a loan from a bank or lease or sub lease the land. This will in time add to the very bedrock of our economy, providing an additional form of liquidity.
This is a key pledge of the DPP led administration under the leadership of His Excellency the President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, to deliver real change and transformation for the betterment of all Malawians.
- Atupele Austin Muluzi is Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development