Traditional leaders in the eastern region have recommended that President Peter Mutharika assent to the newly passed customary land Bill on the basis that it devolves the functions of land management to local leaders.
Senior Chief Kuntumanji of Zomba gave the approval on Monday during a consultative meeting held in Mangochi between the Ministries of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Information, Communication and Technology Development and chiefs from the eastern region.
Kuntumanji said there was nothing wrong with President Mutharika going ahead to sign the new customary land Bill into Law because it would empower traditional leaders with authority over the management and stewardship of the land.
Chief Kuntumanji commended government for taking the Bill to the local masses before it was put to effect into Law saying people would now understand and work in close collaboration in the course of implementation.
“This kind of Law has three sections and the third section particularly talks about customary land which is an area of interest for chiefs,” Kuntumanji pointed out.
He observed that the new customary land law was responsive to changes prevailing in modern world, citing the composition and responsibility of land committees which would have a gender perspective.
“What is even more pleasing is the fact that under the new law there is a provision for establishment of land tribunals which would ensure proper administration of land issues,” Kuntumanji pointed out.
However, he asked government to roll out a massive sensitization campaign of the law especially targeting local governance structures such as the area development and village development committees among others.
Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Atupele Muluzi said the new land legislation devolves management of customary land through empowerment of chiefs to manage the resource in a fair and equitable manner.
Muluzi said it was important to repeal the old law to be in keeping with changes in the modern world considering that the existing law was formulated at the dawn of independence by colonialists.
“This is the first time in the history of the nation that the administration of land comes from the citizenry themselves,” he said. “This is a comprehensive overhaul of the existing legislation.”
Muluzi, therefore, admitted that land management and administration was the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by parliament hence the need for continued engagement and sensitization with all relevant partners.
On assertions that the new land law would only punish the poor, Muluzi said to the contrary the new legislation would empower the vulnerable to register their pieces of land.
“This legislation aims at providing security of land tenure and title deed to the vulnerable within our society – women, children and the disadvantaged groups will be protected,” Muluzi added.
Minister of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education, Patricia Kaliati assured that government would embark on a countrywide civic education exercise on the new law to ensure people have a better understanding of the piece of legislation.
Kaliati asked traditional leaders to take full responsibility of the law in the administration of land under their jurisdiction. She said the new law safeguards land from being grabbed by foreigners among others.
“Government recognizes that land is a critical element to the socio–economic development of the country,” she said. “This law is a deliberate attempt to ensure chiefs, as custodians of people, have a say on customary land.”
Some of the chiefs who attended the sensitization meeting from Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi and Zomba included Kawinga, Nsamala, Jalasi Nyambi, Chikowi, Liwonde and Nankumba among others.
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