Land regulations gathering dust

Land regulations gathering dust

Two years after land laws were amended, Ministry of Lands is yet to gazette the regulations to guide implementation of the laws meant to address perceived ambiguities in the existing land laws.

Ministry of Lands Principal Secretary David Chilonga said on Friday the ministry has just submitted the final draft of land regulations to the Ministry of Justice.

A farmer works on his piece of land

“We submitted to the Ministry of Justice on 16th January 2024 for final drafting and gazetting,” he said.

On when the process would be finalised, Ministry of Justice spokesperson Frank Namangale said they have no comment on the matter.

But Chilonga said there are a number of changes to the regulations based on input from various stakeholders.

He said: “There are so many things that have changed. However, it will be premature to divulge details of what has changed because the Ministry of Justice is yet to release a final version of the regulations.

“Suffice to say that most of the clauses on which stakeholders had raised concerns such as land ceilings, have been revised to accommodate those concerns.”

Chilonga said the delay has not affected implementation of the amended land laws as the ministry is still using existing regulations in so far as they do not conflict with existing laws.

One of the issues which raised concern was the setting of a ceiling on how much land a person can acquire for investment purposes.

In his October 2022 analysis, land law expert Chikosa Silungwe, a former Attorney General, argued that the setting of the ceiling under the subsidiary legislation was an anomaly as it was supposed to be provided for in the principle Act.

From an economic perspective, Malawi University of Business and Applied Science associate professor of economics Betchani Tchereni, now Secretary to the Treasury, in his analysis, also faulted the set ceiling, describing it as a blow to attracting investment in Malawi.

Reads his analysis in part: “Having land size ceilings capped only up to 1 000 hactares might discourage potential investments in commercial agriculture. Some people may need more parcels of land holdings for their nature of business, for example cash crops, hotels and education. The ceilings, therefore, need to be adjusted upwards.”

In 2016, Parliament approved a list of 10 land-related laws, but the then opposition, notably the Malawi Congress Party led by President Lazarus Chakwera, then Leader of Opposition, walked out of the House in protest during debate.

Soon after winning the presidential election in 2020, Chakwera directed that the House should immediately review these laws, saying the 2016 laws had brought about discontentment and had errors because they were rushed.

The enactment of the 2016 laws followed years of discussions which started in 1996 after former president Bakili Muluzi set up a presidential commission of inquiry on Land Policy Reform which culminated in the Land Policy in 2002.

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