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Chiefs protest Land Bill

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Scores of chiefs from various parts of the country and other concerned citizens, Wednesday stormed Parliament with a petition demanding that the assented to Customary Land Bill should not be effected until the Act is repealed and that consultations are thoroughly done.

They have also asked Members of Parliament to table a motion to repeal the Customary Land Act in the current sitting. They also demanded that open consultations on the bill should start again.

They argue that the passed bill annuls their power as traditional leaders. They also argue that there were no thorough consultations on the land bills. They further argue that the proposed land committees will usurp the authority of chiefs and eventually abolish traditional leadership. The chiefs also say the minister of lands has now become an agent for grabbing land from poor Malawians and dissolving chieftaincies.

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Parliament on Monday passed Registered Land (Amendment) Bill which seeks to take the land registration approval powers from the minister responsible for land to customary land committees and Traditional Authorities (T/As) whose jurisdiction the land falls under.

If assented to, the bill will subject the whole country to registration and the changes will enable registration of all customary land whose owners are vulnerable to rich people and also grabbing by big estates.

Tension started brewing in Lilongwe yesterday morning as about 300 traditional leaders from T/A Malili convened at Chinsapo Secondary School as they planned to march to the district council with a petition against the bill becoming a law. The march was blocked as they were told that they did not have permission from the Lilongwe City Council to do so.

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But later in the afternoon, other chiefs from other regions joined the battle and walked to Parliament where they presented their petition asking the legislators to start debate on the bill again and repeal the passing it. The chiefs demanded that the repeal and debate processes should be done before the House rises.

However, the chiefs and the concerned citizens did not get to the National Assembly the easy way as they were blocked by the police; a situation that forced one legislator in the House to rise and inform all MPs that chiefs were being blocked outside.

The information forced all opposition MPs to walk out of the House to welcome the chiefs leaving government side alone.

Bina Shaba, who has been advocating federal system of government in the country read the petition on behalf of the chiefs and the concerned citizens. The petition is dated November 30, 2016 and signed by Shaba on behalf of the chiefs and concerned citizens.

“We, therefore, feel betrayed by the august House for passing [Land Bills] in the irregular fashion. Democracy is at stake here as and when views of the people, the sovereign inhabitants cannot be heeded and when they have no bearing [to] what laws our Parliament may pass,” reads part of the petition.

“Without referring to any section of the law, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has acquired powers from this new Customary Land Act over land matters which we deem unconstitutional, as the new law does not provide recourse in a court of law. This is tantamount to land grabbing,” reads the petition further.

T/A Makata of Blantyre and Vincent Wandale of the Peoples Land Organisation were some of those that spoke to the MPs who had gathered at the entrance to Parliament.

“This government is taking us back to slavery,” said Wandale who added “but we shall not allow that we lose our land to colonial masters.”

Leader of Opposition and President of Malawi Congress Party, Lazarus Chakwera, assured the chiefs that the concerns will be taken care of. Chakwera condemned the hostile environment the chiefs were subjected to as they walked to the Parliament building by the police.

Leader of People’s Party in the House, Uladi Mussa, also assured the chiefs that the MPs will do the needful to ensure that their cries are heard.

Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Spokesperson, Charles Vintula, said the ministry will continue with sensitisation meetings so that people understand the Act.

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