Nkhata Bay District Council ask tribunals to stop demanding money from victims

Nkhata Bay District Council has asked traditional leaders who demand money from victims in the form of summon fees to stop the malpractice, saying it defeats the goal of primary justice in the district and country as a whole.

Nkhata Bay District Social welfare Officer, Lickson Ng’ambi, made the call Monday in an interview with Malawi News Agency on Primary Justice Project (Justice for Vulnerable People) exit.

In Nkhata Bay, the three year project started in 2013 with funding from Department for International development (DFID), UKAid, and European Union which was being channelled through Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP).

“As Nkhata Bay District Council, we are concerned with the behaviour of some chiefs who demand money from victims for them to be assisted, which is very bad.

“The behaviour defeats the project goal of improving access to justice for poor people through improving the quality and accessibility of primary justice systems,” Ng’ambi said.

He disclosed that since 2013 to 1916, 1441 cases have been recorded in the district with land disputes topping the list.

“T.A. Mankhambira had 107 cases of land disputes, the highest number of land cases recorded during the project period,” Ng’ambi said.

T.A. Timbiri recorded 97 cases of land disputes out of the 400 which were recorded in the project period in the area.

However, in the course of dealing with these cases, there were reports of traditional leaders (known as tribunals in the project), asking for money from the victims in the form of summon fees.

According to the District Social Welfare Officer, most land cases affect women, especially widows. He said asking for money in form of summon fees from anybody, let alone widowed women, was defeating the project goal.

Senior Chief Mkumbira said traditional leaders had learnt many lessons from the Primary Justice Project, including that of women’s rights.

“Women are still vulnerable when it comes to land issues because here in the north we regard a boy child as a person to inherit the property while the girl will get married and own property at her husband’s place, which is wrong. That is why we recorded a lot of land issues.” the chief said.

He then asked government and other stakeholders to come in his area to sensitise the communities on the Land Act to clear the misconception about the issue.

“We just hear about Land Act but we don’t know anything about it. We just hear there will be committees formed and traditional leaders will be included in these committees but we don’t know anything,” he said.

Source: Malawi News Agency – MANA.