Lilongwe — Minister of Lands and Housing Henry Phoya says the passing of the Land bill will help deal with all grievances regarding lands and without taking away powers invested in traditional leaders.

Speaking to the media after parliament passed the bill on Tuesday, Phoya said chiefs have not been taken out of the equation, but chiefs will not be the sole decision makers on issues regarding land allocation.

“The bill states that chiefs will no longer be able to make unilateral decisions in allocating land because there will be village committees.

“So the issue of foreigners or new owners coming to claim a piece of land will be an issue of the past because villagers will be sensitized about the intention to allocate a piece of land to some else as there is a committee set up to deal with that,” he said.

The Lands and Housing Minister added that there is the customary land bill which will be tabled later which will provide a significant role for traditional leaders.

He said that contrary to concerns from some members in the House, women are being adequately protected in the bill as it provides equal access to land by both men and women in compliance with the constitution and other gender laws.

Phoya added that he was aware of corruption allegations that have been leveled against officers in his ministry.

“It was important to strength laws that deal with land management issues in the country so that we close the loopholes because people have been using the same laws that exist in order to practice corruption.

“One of the key issues that land bill and other bills that will be presented in this house is addressing the issue of corruption so there are provisions trying to seal these loopholes,” he said.

Phoya added the bill also addresses the issue of land already under freehold of foreigners stating that where a foreigner has freehold of the land to a piece of land and does not obtain Malawi citizenship within seven years from the enactment of the bill, they land will be converted to leasehold.

Among other concerns, Member of Parliament for Mwanza Central Nicolas Dausi said the issue of land acquisition need to be detailed to the public so that traditional leaders should understand how the village committees would work as many fear it is taking away their powers. “Any act or law passed in this house is social tool so Malawians should understand it better. Possession of land is precious for most Malawians, hence it acquisition and inheritance need to be cleared explained that’s why we asked for the bill to be reviewed again before it was passed,” he said. – AllAfrica

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