Foreign nationals in Malawi will no longer be allowed to own land except when they enter into a partnership or joint venture with a Malawian to use the land for investment purposes only.
All foreigners who have already acquired freehold land will also have their land title holding status changed to leasehold which has strict limitations on the period a person can hold the land.
Government has proposed these tight conditions in the Land Bill of 2012 which is ready for tabling in the National Assembly during the current sitting.
The proposed amendments to the Land Act come at a time when there has been public outcry that many foreigners are easily obtaining land across the country at the expense of Malawians who cannot afford to buy the same.
Reads Section 4(1) of the Bill: “A person who is not a citizen of Malawi shall not be allocated or granted freehold land unless it is for investment purposes in accordance with the Investment and Exports Promotion Act, 2012, and that such investor has formed a partnership or a joint venture with a Malawian.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Minister of Lands and Urban Development Henry Phoya said the proposed amendments are aimed at addressing concerns presented to the Special Law Commission on the loopholes in the current Land Act.
Said Phoya: “What we are saying is that no foreigner should own freehold title of land unless that ownership of the land is for investment purposes. Freehold status means that one holds the title of land perpetually where as leasehold title will have a limited period.
“People who appeared before the Special Law Commission that looked at this issue described the problem [of foreigners owning freehold land] as quite prevalent and giving rise to concern on the part of Malawian citizens.”
Currently, foreigners can acquire freehold land on condition that the land is first offered to Malawian citizens and only when no Malawian comes forth to buy it at the published price.
Phoya described the current arrangement as a stop-gap measure.