The 1967 Land Act, the one we still use today, is useless and obsolete.
One, it fuels land grabs because, on customary land, it provides that Malawians only have a right to use the land but not a right to own it.
At the rate the rich and the powerful are grabbing vast tracts of land in villages; I would not be surprised when, few years from now, most Malawians become landless.
Two, this law is fuelling poverty. You see, land is an asset: It can be sold, it can be loaned and it can be used as collateral when accessing loans in financial institutions. But, with the current legal status, most Malawians, on customary land, cannot use their land to access such services. Why? They do not own the land they use. As such, most Malawians sit on dead asset.
Three, look at our towns. People are encroaching everywhere-even hills. Part of the reason is this Land Act. How? You see, our cities have a lot of landlords. You have City Council officials, Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) and Ministry of Lands. All these compete for control and, often, people take advantage of this multiplicity of landlords and take matters into their hand.
I can go on and on, but what is key is that instead of curbing poverty, our land law is fuelling it. It is a clear case of a bad law. In fact that is why, in 2002, as a country we rolled out the process of reviewing all land-related laws with a goal of coming up with a legislation that should be responsive to changing needs.
It is disturbing that 13 years later, after millions spent, these reviewed laws are just gathering dust. Why? Last time former president Joyce Banda refused to assent to them because chiefs felt the new land laws are taking away their power.
Now, I had hope when President Peter Mutharika made a commitment towards getting all land-related laws finalised. But look what we got last week? Government, after weeks of assurance, came out, saying it will not table the much-awaited land-related laws. The reason they have given is dumb because they are not, in the first place, specifying what actually they want to fine-tune.
For a government that, everyday, talks about fighting poverty, it is hypocritical to delay getting out laws that fuel misery on the people. In fact, by delaying even further to finalise the process, Mutharika has just ignited a war with suffering Malawians who want to get the best from their land.
In a similar fashion, the games government is playing on land-related laws is nothing different from those on Access to Information (ATI) Bill. What we know is that access to public information is a constitutional right. I also know that previous administrations have used every trick to suppress the tabling of the ATI. Further, I also know that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) promised with detail that they will expedite the tabling of ATI in Parliament. This, ladies and gentleman, is another Bill that, just like all land-related bills, has been on the shelves for more than a decade.
What we do not is the motive behind DPP in not living according to the promise.
But hey, I got news for President Mutharika. Issues of land and ATI have thousands and thousands of stakeholders. Delaying their finalisation is a clear case of a leader igniting needless wars, on different fronts, with the people. These are laws for the nation; not a party. Mutharika has no choice but expedite the processes. No otherwise because these are needless wars the President cannot win. n