MALGA calls for laws mandating councils to demolish illegal structures

The Malawi Local Government Association (MALGA) has called for swift tabling and enactment of the Local Government Amendment Bill of 2020 in order to strengthen the mandate of local authorities to demolish illegal structures and other unacceptable land developments.

The call comes after the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change asked local councils to start demolishing structures that did not follow approved designs, built on road reserves and wetlands.

But MALGA, while agreeing with the committee, has cited Chapter 22(1) of the Local Government Act, as one of the pieces of legislation contributing to local councils’ ineffectiveness in dealing with illegal land developments.

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The association says the section, in its current state, restricts local governments to having meaningful autonomy to decisively execute their mandate, which includes proper regulation of land developments.

MALGA has made the sentiments in a statement it issued on Thursday and titled: Reflection on the call by Parliament for Local Governments to demolish illegal structures–opportunity for Parliament to address the root cause.

The statement is signed by the association’s leadership, councillor Wild Ndipo and Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire–who are president and executive director, respectively.

“The call by Parliament would not have come at a better time than now when authority of local governments to execute their mandate, including stopping mushrooming of illegal structures, continues to be undermined by citizens and political actors. This problem is clearly visible in the urban areas.

“It is indeed worrisome to note the construction of structures on wetlands, road reserves, river buffer zones, hills, forests and catchment areas. However, the directive from Parliament is not enough to correct the current mess. The current mess is beyond the reach of the local governments and in this case, the city and municipal councils,” the statement reads in part.

MALGA adds that some of the land under question is not controlled by local governments but rather Ministry of Lands and in some cases, Malawi Housing Cooperation.

“It should be noted that some of the plots where some of the illegal structures are built, were created and allocated by the Ministry of Lands and a convenient example is a land scam that happened at Livimbo and Magwero primary schools. In addition, persistent reports of political interference into the mandate of local governments’ on land developments in urban areas, is well documented,” further reads the statement.

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MALGA goes on to state that the tabling and passing of the Local Government Ammendement Bill of 2020, is an opportunity to correct the mess of illegal structures and unacceptable land developments.

“Otherwise, the current legal policy and legal framework on land management create multiple landlords on land management in urban areas which makes it difficult for city councils to effectively manage land developments including illegal developments in cities.

“This, coupled with political interference into the mandate of local governments which is occasioned by lack of meaningful autonomy of local governments, make the city councils helpless in dealing with illegal developments,” says the statement.

MALGA then commends the Ministry of Local Government for taking a proactive role to have the Local Government Act Chapter 22(1) amended, resulting into the Local Government Amendment Bill of 2020.

MALGA says, the Ministry of Local Government, as a policy holder and coordinating ministry on decentralization, has exercised decisive leadership in beginning to addressing bottlenecks to decentralization.

“We, therefore, call upon Members of Parliament to join us in urging the government to take the Local Government Amendment Bill of 2020 to Parliament in the forthcoming November sitting.

“We further urge MPs that, once the bill is tabled in Parliament, they should look at the broader and bigger picture of decentralization, which includes meaningful autonomy of the local governments to undertake key decisions such as demolishing illegal structures,” the statement concludes.

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