10:54 pm - Wednesday 19 September 2018

Malawi Passes Land Bill

By Amalawi - Fri Jul 15, 4:55 pm

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The new bill has been passed amidst heavy criticisms from opposition parties and land activists who accuse government of failing to correct historical injustices, the way Zimbabwe did through its controversial land reforms.During the debate of the land bill, only 70 ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators were present in Malawi’s 193-member Parliament, as opposition lawmakers protested against some provisions of the bill.Leader of the opposition Malawi Congress Party, Lazarus Chakwera, told journalists that the land under freehold category should be under leasehold agreement.

Smallholder famers

Land Distribution in Malawi

Customary land 

Chakwera said: “We have freehold land, much of which was acquired before independence. Then we have the issue of customary land which ordinary Malawians use. According to the bill, customary land has to be registered. What we are looking for here is fairness.”

Commenting on the same issue, People’s Party acting president Uladi Mussa said it was strange that the new law was strict on customary land while leaving out descendants of colonialists on freehold land.

“There are so many restrictions on customary land. Our chiefs will no longer have control over land. Yet the bill is just leaving those people under freehold category,” Mussa said.

Malawian Land Minister Atupele Muluzi said he was surprised about the decision of the opposition, considering that freehold land was not much, but contributed a lot to the economy.

“The land in question is only three percent of the total land. We need to be extremely careful. If possible, we have to consider introducing land taxes for land under freehold system. This issue of freehold is a lesser evil. This is a constitutional matter, nothing personal. We can pass the bill and then revisit the issue of freehold category,” Muluzi said.

Solutions

Malawi’s 2016 Land Bills were aimed at solving the challenges of land ownership and acquisition but the opposition MPs strongly believe that the new legislation has failed to correct past land injustices.

Some traditional leaders have criticized the bill arguing that some of its sections contravene cultural values which says only chiefs have powers to decide on land issues.

The current bill recognises the head of state as being in charge of land governance in Malawi.

Malawi has been avoiding taking the path of “land grabbing”, as taken by Zimbabwe.

To avoid the Zimbabwe scenario, Malawi in the past few years implemented Community-Based Rural Land Development Project (CBRLDP) in which it relocated peasant farmers from highly populated districts to low-density ones.

Land reform in a number of African countries continues to be a long and complex process

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