ActionAid Malawi has called on President Joyce Banda not to assent to the recently passed Land Bill, saying it disempowers women and the landless. ActionAid country director, Martha Khonje, made the call at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe on Friday on the sidelines of a dinner her organisation organised for some MPs to highlight the flaws in the bill and the yet-to-be-tabled Customary Land Bill.
“Currently, we are counting on the President who is female and has worked with women before. We believe that she understands the plight of women when it comes to land,” said Khonje. ActionAid argues that the bill is not in tandem with constitutional provisions of guaranteeing equality, saying it does not empower women to own land. The orgnaisation also contends that the bill does not say anything about the landless and the fate of idle land. Lawyer Justin Dzonzi, who has been reviewing the land bills, said substantive principles of land acquisition and maintenance are not spelt out in the Land Bill. “We still don’t have a basic land law as was proposed in the National Land Policy. We currently do not have basic principles that will govern land management in the country.
“There are a lot of people who have accumulated land and there is no principle that says that you cannot and in the end it disadvantaged the landless. “If you simply say everybody has equal access to land and without changing the law that favours men, you are only perpetuating the current status. It should have come with an affirmative strategy that sought to correct inequalities on the ground,” said Dzonzi.
MP for Dedza Northwest Alekeni Menyani expressed worry at the way the Land Bill was rushed through Parliament. The Customary Land Bill has also caused concern among chiefs who fear that it will take away the authority they have over land.