Renowned lawyer Dr Chikosa Silungwe last week launched his book on land reforms tilted ‘Law, land reform and responsibilisation: A perspective from Malawi’s land question, a culmination of ideas that he has shaped and re–shaped over the last 15 years from an eviction case that he worked on.
Speaking during the launch of the book at Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, Silungwe recalled that when he was a junior lawyer he did an eviction case where his client sought to remove some people who had stayed on his land apparently without his consent for several years.
“I did the court papers and as advised by my senior at the time, I duly described the defendants as ‘Persons Unknown’. But a seed had been planted in me. From then onwards, I sought to understand land relations in Malawi a little more deeply,” said Dr Silungwe.
He said beyond the personal academic pursuit, he has been motivated over the years to work on land law and policy as his humble contribution to the knowledge economy.
“Malawi has been independent for the last 51 years now. However, there has been no peer–reviewed book on land law and policy in Malawi. The book we are launching today is the first of its kind and I hope that it sets the pace for many more to come.”
“We do not have another country we shall call home. Malawi is our home. We are the folks who will develop the knowledge economy of this our beloved country. We should not let others write our story. We must write our story,” said Dr Silungwe.
He said the book is a comprehensive law and policy analysis of land reform in Malawi which has had at least eight cycles of land reform since the advent of colonialism.
He cited key markers as the period from 1889 to 1891 when the British laid claim to sovereignty over the territory that was then called British Central Africa, and then Nyasaland and also the Certificates of Claim of 1902 issued by the Governor of Nyasaland to white estate owners predominantly in the Shire Highlands of southern Malawi.
The others are the successive Orders–in–Council between 1936 and 1949; the Nyasaland Protectorate (African Trust Land) Order–in–Council, 1950 and the Land Ordinance, 1951; the reforms of 1965 to 1967 leading to the present shape of land laws in the country.
The others are also the reforms of 1995 to 2002 which included, among others, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Land Reform and the National Land Policy of 2002; the land law reform cycle that has led to the development of the eleven public Bills on land related matters that are presently before the National Assembly; and, finally, the nascent cycle that has emerged with the formulation and implementation of the Green Belt Initiative.
“The main argument in the book is that a proactive, people–based, triangulated approach premised on law and policy in the political economy provides a suitable platform to resolving a land question in a country,” said Dr Silungwe.
He said among his key findings, land redistribution alone will not resolve the land question in the country.
“On the basis of 1 hectare per household and in the context of the current population density and population growth figures, there will be no land to redistribute by 2018,” noted Dr Silungwe.
“A land reform that meaningfully confronts a land question in a country must not put law ahead of everything else; rather it must locate law in the political economy. Law reform is important. But law reform without anything else is vain,” he said.
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