In Nation on Sunday of September 8 2013, there is an exclusive report about a pilot project called the community-based resettlement land development programme. A major point the author mentions is that pro-democracy activists promised to undertake sweeping land reforms once ushered into power. Prior to this report, the Zebedee Column of the Malawi News of August 31 2013 wrote on the legal aspects of the Land Bill which has not yet become an act even though it was passed by Parliament.
Both articles mention the inadequacy of land administration currently, stating that although our Cabinet approved that there should be a reformed Land Policy in 2002, the legal framework for such a policy is still absent 11 years later. In effect, the two writers are saying that the pro-democracy activists have not yet delivered on their promise. Politicians might want to capitalise on this and say that Malawians were taken for a ride. But is that so, really?
As a practitioner though, I am aware that indeed, our land administration requires to be revamped as the current situation benefits a few and there are many ridiculous situations in existence that need to be addressed. It is obviously taking too long to do this, but I am sure there are reasons for the delay. One possible reason could be that there are some interested groups who would want the status quo to continue.
Take our chiefs, for example, they would lose all conclusive power on land, even allocation committees would be so transparent if the law was changed. One of the changes the Bill proposes is to transfer the ‘eminent domain’ from the Head of State to the State itself.
Pro-democracy activists would say that transferring the ‘eminent domain’ from an individual to the State or the nation is very good and democratic. Such a change would be extremely powerful and would have far-reaching implications. To effect changes on land administration would never be a simple matter as it is dealing with people’s way of living or culture. The importance of land cannot be overemphasised. Wars have been fought over land and throughout history, land has been an indicator of a nation’s development such that any reform is not strange at all but may be necessary. It is, therefore, not surprising that we are being extra careful with our land reform, or are we?
The Kudzigulira Malo Project, as it is known, is a direct beneficiary of the land reform process. It is meant to be a pilot project resettling people from areas of high land pressure to other areas, thereby increasing people’s access to land and thereby increasing agricultural production. This is merely a pilot project and it is going to be a major programme to be rolled out in 2015 to run across the whole country. The rolling out of the programme very much depends on the success of the pilot project.
Taking from the Sunday report by Blessings Chinsinga, the project resettled 1.5 million people and it is regarded by both the donor community and government as a success. However, shall we have the land reform process in full gear and will the legal framework be in place by that time?
The pilot project seems to have been implemented without any element of social amenities or community facilities. As a result, some people who were taken from Thyolo and other places presumably somehow sold their land and moved back to their original homes. The article states that out of 35 families that came from Thyolo, 30 moved back. That is a high figure indeed. I come from a village bordering the Mangochi project area along the Bwanje Valley in Ntcheu and indeed, this could be true as the project is the envy of everyone and certainly, many people are interested in having the land even though social amenities are not available yet.
This would be a fantastic area for the now famous Mudzi Fund to operate. A private-public partnerships (PPP) would also be ideal. However, the main challenge is to level the playing ground by implementing the land reform itself which means passing all proposed relevant bills during the next sitting of Parliament. To my limited knowledge, there are already eight of such bills just waiting to be presented to Parliament. Otherwise, it would be futile to implement such a big programme when the land reform process has not been completed.