President Peter Mutharik has signed into law controversial land bills which were passed in Parliament namely: Land Bill, Physical Planning Bill, Land Survey Bill and Customary Land Bill.
Speaker of Parlimanet Richard Msowoya confirmed that Mutharika has given the nod to the Land Bill which opposition MPs described as a sure way of stripping chiefs of their rights over the land.
“Yes, it is true the Presidet has assented to the Land Bills,” said Msowoya.
Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development AtupeleMuluzi said he was awaiting for communication parliament, but said if President Mutharika has assented to the bills then it is “ a good milestone achievement and development for all Malawians.
Some civil society organisations (CSOs) have asked the President not to assent to four of the 10 Bills already passed on the basis that government did not consult stakeholders on the laws.
But Muluzi argued tjhat the bills had gone through a rigorous consultation process before being tabled in Parliament and passed.
“These Bills emanate from the 2002 Land Policy. For the past 14 years, the Bills have gone through rigorous consultations and in March this year, they were presented to Parliament for review and input,” he said.
Muluzi underlined that the four Land-related Bills which have got the President’s nod represent the much-needed legal framework that would spur socio-economic development in the country.
He underlined that Malawi, currently, is at ‘critical juncture regarding the role of land management to the socio-economic development of the country’.
Muluzi explained: “ Customary land is defined as land held, used or occupied by the people communally, meaning that the land is not individually or privately owned. 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 seek permission from the Traditional Authority of the area to register this land. This means that they can now be recognized as the private owners of the land.
“This will mean that individuals will then be able to use this land as security for obtaining a loan from the bank. The owner will also be able to lease or sublease their land or transfer ownership through their will or transmission.”
Another key change, Muluzi explained, is that young people and women can also be registered as owners of the land in their own right, meaning that widows can now have security.
“These changes will all come into force once the Registered Land (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has been enacted… The respective land committees and the Traditional Authorities shall only affect such registration after the approval of the application. Group village heads and traditional authorities will chair these land committees.
“The cost of initial registration of customary estates will be completed and will be covered by government. However, subsequent transactional costs will then need to be met by the landowners. These transactions will include the registration fees for the transfer of the customary estates, leases and subleases. These fees should be payable by the person who is buying the customary estate.
“The owner of the customary estate will also be requested to pay fees for the sub division of any land. The owners will also be liable for any capital gains tax that results from these transactions.”
Muluzi said the Bill was crafted and passed to reflect the best intentions for all Malawians.
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