Some critics of the four Land Bills that President Peter Mutharika has signed into law have welcomed the decision, underlining that they will not take any further action.
Human rights activist Billy Mayaya, who organised demonstrations to lobby the President not to assent to the Bills, said in an interview yesterday Mutharika has a right to do so and there is nothing he (Mayaya) can do about it.
He said: “It is not that all these laws are misplaced. Rather, there are some issues that these fail to address. Of great concern to some of us is the issue of compensation.
“Vast pieces of land of our people have been grabbed from them. These laws fail to address how those whose land was grabbed will get their compensation.”
However, Mayaya added that he will continue engaging Parliament to ensure that relevant amendments are made to the laws so that Malawians, whose land was grabbed, get justice.
Senior Chief Kapeni from Blantyre, who earlier called on the President not to assent to the Bills because there was still need for awareness on some of the provisions, said there is nothing more, as a chief, he can do.
He said: “We were only asking the President to delay assenting so that most Malawians are aware of the law. But the President, as Head of State, has seen it wise to assent to it. I have no problem.”
Reacting to the same, Chitipa South legislator Werani Chilenga (People’s Party-PP)—who chaired the parliamentary joint committee that reviewed the Land Bills and proposed some changes to them—said it is Parliament that passed the Bills and the President has done what he was supposed to.
“There is nothing more Parliament can do about it,” he said.
Chilenga further said the problem is that the issue of land registration remained as it was with local people having to pay to get their land registered.
Meanwhile, Malawi Law Society (MLS) vice-president Mwiza Nkhata has advised Malawians to take keen interest in the law development processes in the country.
“The land-related Bills date back to 1999. We had all those years to air out our views on these Bills. But we did not do that and it is quite regretable,” he said.
Nkhata, an associate professor of law at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), underlined that with the President making an assent, it means everything is now water under the bridge.
“The presidential powers here are his prerogative. He did not have to consult. These laws, hence, can only be challenged if they contravene the Constitution,” he said.
During the last Parliament sitting, the House passed four of the 10 land-related Bills. The four include: the Customary Land Bill, the Principal Land Bill, the Land Survey Bill and the Physical Planning Bill.
However, it is some provisions in the Customary Land Bill and the Principal Land Bill which sparked angry reactions from some sections of the society.
Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya told The Nation in an earlier interview on Tuesday that the President assented to the Land Bills.