ActionAid Malawi has called on President Joyce Banda not to assent to the recently passed Land Bill saying the bill heavily disempowers women and the landless.
ActionAid Country Director, Martha Khonje made the call at Crossroads Hotel on Friday on the side lines of a dinner her organisation organised for some parliamentarians to appreciate the flaws in the passed bill and to highlight those in the yet to be tabled Customary Land Bill.
“We notice the main bill which is the land bill has been passed but there is an opportunity, currently we are counting on the President who is female and has worked with women before. We believe that she understands the plight of women when it comes to land.
|Our hope is on the President - Khonje|
“It’s not too late to reconsider the land bill just like the president did not assent the bill on marriage age. Our hope is not lost as the same can be done on the land bill. The president can intervene on behalf of women and the landless,” said Khonje.
ActionAid is arguing that the bill is not in tandem with the constitutional provisions of guaranteeing equality saying the bill does not empower women to own land and it does not say anything about the landless and the fate of idle land among other issues.
Khonje says she hopes that the parliamentarians would go back to parliament and try to send back the customary land bill saying the bill is not practical and will fail on the ground if pased.
Lawyer Justin Dzonzi who has been reviewing the land bills said substantive principles of land acquisition and maintenance are not spelt out in the land bill. He said the proposed law has concentrated on facilitating land transactions and not basic principles of land.
“We still don’t have a basic land law as was proposed in the national land policy we currently do not have basic principles that will govern land management in the country. There are a lot of people who have accumulated land and there is no principle that says that you cannot and in the end it disadvantaged the landless.
“If you simply say everybody has equal access to land and without changing the law that favours men you are only perpetuating the current status. It should have come with an affirmative strategy that sought to correct inequalities on the ground,” said Dzonzi.
But minister of lands and housing who is also leader of the house Henry Phoya in an earlier interview after the session that passed the bill, played down the fears by the bills critics saying the land bill was just a general bill and that upcoming bills such as customary law bill will explain some issues better.
Members of Parliament at the lobby dinner complained of the limited time they have to review bills and urged the civil society and non-governmental organisations to help iron out anomalies in bills at consultation stage.
One MP, Alekeni Menyani of Dedza Northwest, said land is the basic pride of poor Malawians and he expressed worry at the way the bill was rushed through parliament and wondered if Malawi was being sold.