Written by  Patricia Kapulula, Mana

Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change has described the current National Land Policy as not addressing environmental degradation, hence the need for reviewing to address the weakness.

Brick Burning in Chiradzulu (Picture By Austin Kakande, MBC) Brick Burning in Chiradzulu (Picture By Austin Kakande, MBC)

The committee has since described the policy, which dates back to 2002, as the weakest in the region.

Chairperson of the committee, Werani Chilenga, called for the policy’s review on Monday in Lilongwe during a panel discussion on land management which National Planning Commission (NPC) organised to disseminate results of a study published by Malawi Priorities.

Malawi Priorities is a research-based collaborative project implemented by NPC with technical support from African Institute for Development Policy and the Copenhagen Consensus Centre.

The project aims at identifying and promoting the most cost-effective interventions that address Malawi’s development challenges and support the attainment of its development aspirations.

Chilenga said the Land Policy, in its current form, does not address issues of building and cultivation among other weaknesses.

“If you look at what is happening in the country, you will find that there are people who are building and cultivating on hill tops; people cultivating on river banks; people building on road reserves, and yet, nothing is happening to stop the malpractice,” he said.

He said such a situation is causing electricity black outs because of dwindling water levels and drying up of rivers.

Chilenga further expressed concern that if the trend continues, the country will end up having its rivers silted up and drying.

“We passed the land laws in 2016 which were just bulldozed because they had a lot of weaknesses.

“During the time we were passing these land laws, the opposition, including the [current] Head of State, Dr Lazarus Chakwera who was Leader of Opposition then, walked out of Parliament in protest to some contentious issues in some of the land laws,” recalled Chilenga.

He cited the contentious issues such as sell of land to foreigners; abolishment of freehold land and payment of fees for establishment of customary land as some of the issues which need to be addressed.

NPC Research Manager, Andrew Jamali, said the review of the policy was overdue. He observed that a lot has happened over time which necessitates the review.

He pointed out that the first review that needs to be done is to align the policy to the aspirations of the MW2063.

“So, we need to make sure that the Land Policy aligns with the new Vision of Malawi, inclusive of wealth creation and self-reliance.

“The other thing is the Land Policy accommodates discrepancies that are appearing at policy level in a sense that policies aren’t talking to each other,” he said.

Jamali expressed need for policy integration for an integrated approach to addressing the policy concerns, not only with land but also other policies such as Forestry and Water policies, so that they are in harmony and that they holistically address problems on the ground.

Commissioner for Lands, Kwame Ngwira, said while Chilenga was justified to call for the review of the policy citing land being sold to foreigners, the Constitution prohibits discrimination in any form.

“So, when it comes to allocation of land, currently, there are procedures or laws which give priority to Malawian citizens to have first option to purchase land.

“But after land has been allocated to these citizens, they tend to sell it to non-Malawians,” said Ngwira.

After enacting the National Land Policy Act in 2016, which provides for formal registration of customary land, piloting was done to check if registration of customary settlement would be possible.

With funding from Malawi Government and the European Union (EU), Oxfam Malawi in partnership with CEPA and Landnet did a pilot in Phalombe, Kasungu and Rumphi where 4211 customary estates were registered.

Oxfam Malawi Executive Director, Lingalireni Mihowa emphasised on the need to address cultural norms in registering land.

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