Government has noted with concern that there are people who are spreading deliberate misinterpretation of the new Customary Land Act by quoting in isolation Section 26:2 (c) which reads “the occupier shall pay any applicable rent, fees, charges, taxes and other requirements, in respect of his occupation of the land.”
By quoting and spreading contents of this clause in isolation and reading it out of context, the intention is to create in the public a false impression that under the Customary Land Act, every Malawian will be subjected to paying for their own land. This is propaganda that is meant to create panic in the public.
The fact of the matter is that the above purported clause being spread on social media is talking about conditions of a Customary Estate in Section 26. This Section needs to be read from Section 24 (1) which says “A land committee may require the payment of a fee on the grant of customary estate to an organization or body.” Clearly therefore, “the occupier” being referred to in paying “any applicable rent, fees, charges, taxes and other requirements” is a condition for an organization or body (a Customary Estate) taking possession of customary land.
It must be noted that in the new law customary land is defined as belonging to chiefs and administered to Chief’s subjects as has been the case for a long time in Malawi. Individual Malawians will continue to hold their land as personal for free, unless an individual chooses and decides to register or lease their own land for perpetuity upon which the administrative costs of the leasing process shall apply. Such an individual may further decide to rent out the leased land for a fee to any organization or body.
The public will appreciate that contrary to misinterpretations that the new law is there to dispossess Malawians of their land, this law is intended to empower Malawians over their customary land and provide more land security.
The public is also hereby advised to realize that any clause or section of any Act must be read in the context of the whole law and the totality of its spirit. Further, the public is also advised that the law must be read in relation to other laws. Most immediately, the Customary Land Act needs to be read along with the Land Registration Act. Besides, Malawi has 14 land related acts.
We advise the public to take with very extreme caution and question any pieces of land laws being circulated on social media with the intent of creating public panic. The best practice is to disregard them and wait for authoritative information to be disseminated to the public once the acts have been assented to by the State President. We are aware that the public needs appropriate information on land because this is a matter that affects us all.
Patricia A. Kaliati MP
Government Spokesperson &
Minister of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education