Malawi Law society (MLS) has disapproved a Ministry of Lands directive issued on April 20 2021, to suspend all land transactions in Ndunda Area in Lilongwe West.
The ministry put a public notice that it had, with immediate effect, suspended the granting of new titles and issuance of consent for land transfers until such a time when the ministry would have undertaken a land audit in the affected areas.
The ministry said this was meant to ensure that only those people whose titles were properly issued and registered should have their titles maintained on the respective registers at Lilongwe Land registry.
But in its letter to the Commissioner for Lands in Lilongwe dated July 23 2021, MLS describes the move as an infringement of the Constitution.
The letter, signed by the MLS president Patrick Mpaka, says sections 28, 29 and 43 of the Constitution guarantee the rights to property, economic activity and fair administrative action.
Reads the letter in part: “Our view is that each piece of land should be dealt with on its own merit and if any land audits are to be done, they should not restrict people’s dealings with private land as the same can take place concurrently.”
The lawyers’ body said it jumped on the matter in terms of Section 64(d) of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act which mandates MLS to protect matters of public interest touching, ancillary or incidental to the law.
MLS says it was asking the high office to provide the lawyers’ body with information and a legal basis of the directive which the law society says was unable to find justification in the law for such an arbitrary course of action whose termination seemed to have been placed at the pleasure of the ministry.
MLS also reminds the Commissioner for Lands that the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act sets out clear restrictions to practice of the law in Malawi, but complains they have noticed adverts by individuals who are not legal practitioners doing their work.
MLS says the people are facilitating the obtaining of title deeds to land by working hand in hand with government authorities.
“This, if carried through, is a clear contravention of section 31(1)(b) of the above mentioned Act. With a view to curbing such reported use of unqualified persons in the transaction of legal business and to ensuring the rule of law, we implore your office not to deal with such individuals in contravention of the law.
“We further seek your assistance in reporting such dealings to the Malawi Law Society to enable us deal with the same as per section 31 of the Act,” MLS says, further seeking an audience with the Commissioner for Lands in Lilongwe to reflect on issues raised.
In an interview yesterday, Mpaka said they were expecting to hear from the Commissioner for Lands to grant them the audience.
When contacted yesterday, Ministry of Lands spokesperson Enock Chingoni asked for a questionnaire yesterday, but said he needed time to consult. The ministry’s Principal Secretary (PS) Bernard Sande could not pick calls on several attempts.
In recent years, there have been controversies on land issues in the country.
In 2019, the Ministry of Lands admitted that the ministry was infested with corruption, abuse of office and maladministration.
The then PS Joseph Mwandidya, while offering an apology to members of Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs in Lilongwe, described the Ministry of Lands as rotten.
“There is no need to hide it. There is too much corruption taking place and people have been duped through a syndicate which I am glad to say has been busted on land sales. There is more that we need to do about it,” he said.