National Co-coordinator for LandNet Malawi Emmanuel Mlaka has urged members of parliament to consider discussing and pass the much awaited Land Bill into law which regulate the pricing of land apart by making it a requirement for any land sales to be published in newspapers and Malawians given priority.
The Bill has provided that a government valuer should verify published prices before conclusion of the transaction
Mlaka said in Salima during a four day training workshop for the media that the passing of the Land bill will help to deal with all grievances regarding lands and without taking away powers invested in traditional leaders.
Section 4 (1) of the Bill reads: “A person who is not a citizen of Malawi shall not be allocated or granted freehold land unless it is for investment purposes in accordance with the Investment and Exports Promotion Act, 2012, and that such investor has formed a partnership or a joint venture with a Malawian.”
But soon after parliament had passed the bill in 2013, Chiefs held demonstrations asking Malawi President not to ascent to the Bill saying it is aimed at snatching powers from them.
Section 5(2)(b) of the Customary Land Bill now provides for women representation in the allocation of customary land through creation of customary estate while landlessness, another old concern, is addressed through Section 36 of Customary Land Bill as well which empowers government to redistribute some land to poor people who do not own any.
The New Land Bill comprises five separate Bills, among them the Land Bill, the Registered Land (Amendment) Bill, the Physical Planning Bill, the Land Survey Bill and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill.
Mlaka observed that Malawi had been very slow in modifying its land laws to favourably respond to the current challenges which have in turn impacted negatively on many sectors of growth in the country.
He said the policy on land and the accompanying laws are quite outdated and as a result of the economic and population growth, there have been a number of problems.
Mlaka said Malawi had 11 million hectares of which almost two million hectares is water, bringing the number to nine million.
He said most of the land was unusable because it was covered with marshes, hills and valleys and that what was usable was about 5.4 million hectares.
“That has been the amount of land from 1964 when we got independence and the population has increased from 1966 when we had our first census from 4 million to close to 14 million in 2008.
“At 2.8 growth rate, now we should be more than 16 million. That means we have multiplied by more than four times, but the amount of land is the same,” he said.
Mlaka also apportioned blame on the challenges currently being faced on the land Act which is in use at the moment, saying it did not favour the needs of Malawians as it was designed with the English in mind.
He said: “When we gained our independence, we adopted a 1965 Land Act which was an English law and this law was designed to favour the English and not Malawians.
“For example, why should freehold land be reserved for foreigners only? Why don’t Malawians have freehold land? It is because they have made it so expensive for them.”
He has also cautioned government to tread carefully on foreign investments which he said had been necessitated by the economic pressure prevailing at the moment which “are part of the economic recovery plan.”
“There are strategies put in place by the government through experts for economic recovery. Those initiatives demand huge investments on land.
“And if our population has increased from 4 million to probably 16 million, that gives us an average land holding of approximately 0.8 hectares. Where shall these investors get the land?
“So what we are saying is that we are not against investment, but there must be laws that are up to date with the developments.
“If we are going to have investment, there must be laws which govern procedures and the modalities of the investment to make sure that the vulnerable who are the majority of Malawians are not victimised,” he said.
With more than 80 per cent of the country’s population based in rural areas and earning their living through smallholder farming, their survival is directly pinned on their right to land and it is these informal tenure rights owners who fall victim in the current set up.
LandNet Malawi is an organisation which is a network of more than 40 other civil society organisations which advocate for pro-poor and gender sensitive policies and law on land and other natural environment.—Additional reporting by Brian Itai, Mana
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