Human rights activist Billy Mayaya yesterday led a protest march in Lilongwe and petitioned President Peter Mutharika not to assent to the Land Bill Parliament recently passed amid protests from opposition legislators.
Mayaya presented the two-paged petition to the government through Lilongwe City Council (LCC) director of administration Dyson Milanzi.
The petition’s presentation climaxed Mayaya’s aim to record his displeasure and that of many other people over the passing of the Land Bill by government members of Parliament (MPs) even in the face of a walk-out protest from opposition MPs who felt government had ignored their Bill reservations.
Reading the petition before presenting it, Mayaya faulted government for rushing the Bill to Parliament before making thorough consultations.
He argued that in its present form, the Bill gives the rich an edge on land acquisition, while depriving and denying the poor of their right to own land.
Said Mayaya: “The Bill does not address the issue of past, present and future land grabs, as well as corresponding issues of compensation. We, therefore, recommend that the President should not assent to it.”
During the demonstration, which began at Area 18 Roundabout to the LCC Civic Offices, Mayaya led 30 placard-hoisting protesters. Ironically, they were out-numbered by heavily-armed police officers who kept a close watch over the marchers.
Initially, Malawi Police Service (MPS) had declined to provide security during the protest march because the law enforcers wouldduties. be carrying out other important
But when the protest organisers vowed to go ahead with the demonstration yesterday, they were surprised to see a heavy police presence at the starting point of the march.
At certain points, the protesters stopped by billboards bearing Mutharika’s face to pray that the President be not influenced by evil forces.
During the passing of the Land Bill in Parliament, controversy heightened when opposition MPs walked out of the Chamber, protesting that the government had not incorporated several amendment clauses they had proposed.
The Land Bill was the fourth overarching legislation Parliament passed during the just-ended 2016/17 Budget session. It incorporates three other land-related Bills –namely on Physical Planning, Land Survey and Customary Land.
In response to the outcry, the government and some non-governmental organisations, like Landnet, argue that the Bill needs to be enacted because it best encapsules aspirations of most Malawians who have discussed intricate land matters for 14 years and may need to fine-tune a few aspects in future.
In an exclusive interview with The Nation last week, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Planning Atupele Muluzi said the Bill was crafted and passed to reflect the best intentions for all Malawians.