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Land law stirs panic in cities

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The recent land laws have pushed people on a panic mode in major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu where residents have gone on a kneejerk selling of their land with most of them expressing fear that “once the law is operationalised, people will lose their land”.

However, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development described such fears as borne of the unknown as there is no provision in the land law that is directly empowering government to take over people’s land but to get rid of absentee landlords.

Round checks conducted by The Daily Times in Limbe and Blantyre Central Business Area (CBD); Old Town, Malangalanga and Area 3 in Lilongwe; and Chibabvi in Mzuzu revealed cities littered with posters on trees and poles and walls advertising land and plots to be sold.

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One Ndirande resident, Samuel Bandawe, who is selling his plot which has a two-bedroom houses with water and electricity at K1.8 million, revealed to us that he fears to take chances and lose his house once the land law is operationalised.

“There is too much talk about government taking up all land in the cities. I am afraid I can lose the money I used to buy the plot and, as such, I want to let it go and recover the money I invested on the plot,” Bandawe said.

Some of the posters that hang from Limbe Market through Limbe Police Lines in Blantyre advertise for some plots as low as K200, 000 in surrounding lines like Bangwe, Chigumula, Chiwembe and Makhetha.

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Asked to comment on the development, Senior Chief Kapeni of Blantyre blamed the trend on lack on information about the new laws in the country.

He further said the extent at which people are selling land prompted him to visit Mpemba on Sunday to intervene and assure the people that the laws are not bent on allowing government to snatch land from locals.

“The issue i s that we missed one point in sensitising the populace to the land bills [now assented to]. It has not been explained explicitly what these land bills involve. Yesterday, I got a phone call that people in Kajombo Area in Mpemba are selling their land for fear of losing it to government. Hearsay has caused panic in the people,” said Kapeni.

However, Kapeni cited lack of clear-cut boundaries to distinguish urban land and rural land in cities as contributing to the confusion.

Traditional Authority Kalumbu in Lilongwe concurred with Kapeni that adverts by Lilongwe City Council that it will seize all land in urban areas caused panic as well in a section of his area that lies in Lilongwe Urban.

However, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Spokesperson, Charles Vintula, assured the people that there is no need for honest people to fear losing their land or plots as the new land laws aim at discouraging absentee landlords for all freehold land to be reverted to government.

“Absentee landlords are compelled to develop their land, or enter into a joint venture with someone who will develop the land. What government has always wanted is to put the land to optimum and economic use, so that land is productive,” said Vintula.

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