LandNet Malawi, an umbrella body of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that deals with governance of land, says it was high time CSOs in the country joined efforts with government to address the misunderstandings between chiefs and other quarters on the newly enacted land laws.
The network has observed that the current disagreements by some chiefs and government on the land laws, especially on Customary Land Act, were as a result of inadequate coordination between players in the country to equip community leaders with adequate information to make informed decisions.
Speaking at the end of a two day training workshop for CSO network for Karonga on Thursday, Project officer for LandNet Malawi, MacDonald Galimoto said most CSOs were not paying attention to the new laws.
“There is little effort by CSOs in the country to ensure that communities are aware of the impact of the land laws, as a result, some of the community leaders are not in agreement with the new laws,” Galimoto said.
Parliament in its past meetings enacted several land related laws which were subsequently, assented to by President Peter Mutharika but due to lack of adequate civic education and other unknown reasons some chiefs and other CSOs have shown resistance to the implementation of the laws.
Key amongst the reasons for the traditional leaders’ resistance is the fear the new land laws, particularly the Customary Land Act would undermine the powers of chiefs especially with the establishment of land committees and land tribunals.
However, Galimoto said the current laws create transparency and accountability on the distribution of land.
Galimoto added: “You know that for the past decades customary land has all along been governed by chiefs, where inheritance was based on the customs and traditions of tribes.
“For instance, in the northern region, inheritance of land was prioritized to men, while in the southern region to women, a development which also affected production of food; the Customary Land Act has come to do away with that and will promote equal access of land to both men and women.”
In his remarks vice chairperson for Karonga CSO network, Reverend Lesly Mtekateka agreed that there was need for all stakeholders to address the misconceptions some community members have on the new laws.
“Some of us thought that the new laws will impose fees and rentals and that the laws will dispossess land for redistribution and reallocation,” Mtekateka said.
The enactment of new land laws which includes the Land Act, Physical Planning Act and the Customary Land Act has steered debate in various circles over a period of time now with some chiefs, people and CSOs agreeing with the new amendments while other oppose it.