12 July 2018

Malawi: Traditional Leaders in Blantyre Endorse Customary Land Act

Traditional leaders from Blantyre District have hailed government for introducing the Customary Land Act, hoping that it would reduce land disputes within their localities.

Speaking on Tuesday after a sensitization meeting organized by Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Senior Chief Kapeni said the introduction of the Act would help in the proper certification of land owners.

Kapeni said people would now have valid documents and that no one would tamper or claim ownership of land that does not belong to them as was the case before.

Chief Kapeni observed that the Act would, apart from giving people an opportunity to have valid documents of their land, provide proper boundaries between chiefs.

"We have also had fights amongst ourselves over land, we are sure that the Act would also address such challenges," Kapeni added.

On his part, Traditional Authority Machinjiri said the coming of the Act was timely, especially now that many people, particularly foreigners were buying land knowing that the old Act was silent on the matter.

"This is commendable. From now onwards we know that our land will be secured. Besides, people will now have proper papers for their land, chiefs will be the last point in case someone wants to sale the land and that is where we feel our land would be protected," he said.

"The new legislation also clearly states that where land is being sold, Malawians should be the first people to be considered before the foreigners and as chiefs, we feel that this is the best way of protecting our precious land," added T.A. Machinjiri.

Traditional Authority Kuntaja concurred with his fellow chiefs that the Act would, apart from other benefits, reduce land disputes which he said were rampant not only in Blantyre, but across the country.

"If there is an issue that many chiefs are troubled with then it is about land ownership. People have lost lives because there have been no proper documentation as to who owns a particular piece of land. The Act is a plus to the community," he said.

According to Chief Economist in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, James Namfuko, the aim of the sanitization meetings with traditional leaders was to inform them about the new Act and also appeal for their support in the implementation process.

"In whatever will be happening on the ground, it will require the presence and intervention of chiefs and if they don't understand the law, it will be very difficult for government to enforce the law.

"Although the Act is already operational, we expect that chiefs should be able to guide their communities properly," Namfuko said.

District Commissioner for Blantyre, Bennet Nkasala said the council would soon put up mechanisms to implement sensitization programmes to ensure that provisions of the Act are fully disseminated. He also hailed the Ministry of Lands for engaging chiefs on the Act.

"Dissemination of information from chiefs to chiefs and other partners will help in creating a better understanding of issues the Act seeks to address. Presently, land matters make about 60 per cent of the disputes that come from communities.

"It is, therefore, my expectation that the new Act will help minimize, if not completely eradicate challenges on the ground," Nkasala said.

Parliament passed the Customary Land Act in 2016 but it came into force on March 1, this year.

The new Act intends to formalize land ownership to bonafide citizens by issuing of a certificate, developing maps and land use plans for each and every land owned by a Malawian and establish customary land committee that would be responsible for land demarcation and also handling of disputes in the communities.

Meanwhile, government has selected nine districts where a pilot of the mapping, establishment of committees and other things would be done before rolling it out to other districts.

Some of the districts include Mchinji, Karonga, Phalombe and Chikwawa.

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