Land Reforms

Land Reforms Overview

Malawi Government established a Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Land Reform in 1996 to ensure that views of the citizens were not overlooked in the formulation of the new policy on land administration. The mandate of the Commission was to promote scholarly discourse, to gather opinions of the private sector, ordinary citizens and Non-Governmental Organizations as well as organizing its findings to support efforts towards the Land Policy Reform. The Malawi National Land Policy (MNLP) was later developed and approved in 2002 following recommendations from the Presidential Commission’s report. The main goal of the MNLP was to ensure tenure security and equitable access to land to facilitate the attainment of social harmony and broad-based social and economic development through optimum and ecologically balanced land use and land-based resources. The objectives of the land policy are as follows;

  1. To promote tenure reforms that guarantee security of tenure and instill confidence and fairness in land transactions;
  2. To promote decentralized and transparent land administration structure;
  3. To extend land use planning strategies to all urban and rural areas;
  4. To establish modern land registration system for delivery of land services to all and
  5. To enhance conservation and community management of local resources and promotion of research and capacity building in land surveying and management.

The Malawi Government observed that the findings and recommendations contained in the MNLP were then at variance with the existing legal framework dealing with land matters including the supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the Republic. As such, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MoLHUD) requested the Law Commission to carry out a review of all land related laws. Consequently, a Special Law Commission on Land Related Laws was empaneled by the Law Commissioner in consultation with the judicial Service Commission in 2003 to undertake the review process. The Special Law Commission commenced its work in March 2003 and completed in March 2010.

The Law Commission did not deviate from what was contained in the MNLP. In executing its work, the Commission endevoured to translate findings and recommendations of the MNLP into law, by considering the existing legal framework including the Malawi Constitution, international law and practice, and several research findings including the report of the Presidential Commission on Land Reform. In brief, the work included democratic principles and decentralization policy that the nation adopted. There were minor variations between the MNLP recommendations and what was later provided for in the Land Bills that were drafted in 2012. Thus the MNLP informed the land related Bills.

Presentation of the Bills to the National Assembly was after a long period and somehow overdue, partly due to the rigorous law review processes which had involved wide consultations to ensure that views from land related experts, legal experts, the general public including traditional leaders and various special interest groups led by the civil society organizations are taken into consideration. There were a total of ten land related bills that were finally tabled and passed in Parliament in 2016. After the Parliamentary enactment, the bills were subsequently assented to by the President by 2017, and put into effect in March 2018.