Ministry of Lands has responded to concerns on amended land laws following a story published in the April 3 edition of The Nation quoting lawyers and other stakeholders who expressed reservations.
In the story, experts and other concerned stakeholders expressed concern on proposed land ceilings, re-entering undeveloped land after two years, expropriation of private land without compensation and preferential treatment accorded to indigenous Malawians over foreigners.
But in a written response to The Nation questionnaire submitted over a month ago, the ministry’s Principal Secretary Davie Chilonga said the land ceiling was just a proposal currently under discussion as the government is still consulting.
He said the intention is that land users should be able to maximise production on small land parcels.
Said Chilonga: “Currently, it is not easy to find large tracts of land because of rapid population increase. Ceiling on land for growing tobacco has not been considered because it is not a perennial crop. However, this will be considered after consulting other stakeholders.”
He dismissed fears that those who previously registered customary land to become private land will lose their land, saying the laws will not apply retrospectively.
The PS observed that the prohibition of sale of vacant or undeveloped land is in line with the National Land Policy of 2022.
While foreigners are not allowed to own customary land, Chilonga said they will continue to access land for various types of investments through Malawi Investment and Trade Centre which has been given the legal mandate to manage all land earmarked for investment purposes.
He said the pilot phase of implementation of the 2016 enactments generated lessons that informed the review, adding some of the provisions in the 2016 land related laws did not achieve the intended purpose.
Chilonga said the provision under the Land Act which required that any sale of land to non-Malawians should first be advertised in a newspaper in daily circulation in Malawi for a period of 21 days was being abused in the sense that the purchase prices were inflated to deter Malawian citizens.
“This compelled the government to review the law which led to the conclusion that the best approach would be to prohibit non-Malawian citizens from accessing the land, save for investment purposes” he said.
In an interview, Centre for Environmental Policy Advocacy executive director Herbert Mwalukomo said he supported the provisions because the government ought to protect indigenous Malawians who risk losing land in the name of economic benefits.
“Restriction in selling customary land helps Malawians to have something to hold on to. Land is culture. We do not need to have a case where Malawians become landless.
“Foreigners, for their financial muscle, already have an upper hand. We do not have to wake up one day where the whole land is gone to foreigners,” he said.