The alleged encroachment on public school land in Lilongwe has brought to light issues of collusion between lawyers, land sellers and prospective land buyers.
Information Weekend Nation has gathered indicates that some lawyers have allegedly been aiding foreigners to beat the provisions of the Land Act to fraudulently obtain private land in the country.
But the Malawi Law Society (MLS)—the legal profession watchdog—has said the system is criminal in nature and if proved authorities need to take action.
The Land Act 2016 under Section 24C provides that any intention to sell private land to anyone, priority must first be given to Malawians.
Again, when no Malawian comes forward, land sellers are obligated by the law to publish a notice in the country’s newspapers with the highest daily circulation for not less than 21 days before the date of sale to declare that Malawians have failed to buy the land.
However, when Malawians come forward with a matching price upon seeing the notice, some lawyers handling the sale of such land put another notice in the newspapers withdrawing the intention to sale.
“Their intention [by the alleged lawyers] is to later secretly sell the land to foreigners at a higher value,” claimed a land valuer working with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in Lilongwe.
Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba said his organisation was aware of the alleged conspiracy between some lawyers and private land sellers, which he revealed was in two-fold.
He explained: “The people buying land, to an extent, are trying to be clever because they understand there is too much fraud in land matters in Malawi whether through experience or from elsewhere they have been buying.
“So, to legalise their process they are engaging some lawyers to help them with paperwork because they are entitled to certify land under the Land Act.”
While describing the trend as unfortunate, Mkwezalamba said the implicated lawyers ought to be concerned with the rate they are endorsing such sale of huge pieces of land.
“As true Malawians, they need to reflect on whether what they are doing is justifiable and in the interest of the country or just for the sake of money, which is a great disservice to the country,” he lamented.
MLS vice-president Patrick Mphaka said the challenges could best be addressed by Parliament by either prescribing more details on publishing the notices or repealing the law.
“Lawyers cannot be blamed for following the law as it is. In regard to the alleged withdrawal [of notices], if such a thing happens, and is proved that it is something criminal, authorities can look into it just like MLS can also address such if tangible information is provided,” he said.
Assistant communications specialist for Land Reforms in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Charles Vintula said nobody has officially complained about a proven deception by some lawyers resulting in failure to purchase private land which later ended into the hands of a non-Malawian.