In 1967 the Malawi Parliament passed a set of statutes which were intended to provide a new legal framework for rural agrarian change. The President, Dr. Banda, emphasised during the proceedings that existing customs for holding and tilling land were outdated, wasteful and totally unsuitable for the development of a country with agriculture as the basis of the economy. He suggested that the main problem was the absence of individual titles:
“No one is responsible & for the uneconomic and wasted use of land because no one holds land as an individual. Land is held in common & and everybody's baby is nobody's baby at all.”
He argued that the existing laws and customs discouraged individuals and institutions from providing loans for the development of land. New laws were therefore required to ameliorate the situation:
These remarks were not completely novel; they echoed and repeated recommendations in the reports of the East Africa Royal Commission, 1953–55, and the Conference on African Land Tenure in East and Central Africa held in Arusha, Tanzania, in 1956. The defects of customary land tenure pertaining to shifting cultivation and the preponderance of group control over land holding and use which the Malawi President particularized were not the only justifications for reform. The reports suggested that tenure reforms were necessary where population explosion and shortage of land contributed to the uncontrolled emergence of land dealings; where unfixed and uncertain customary land boundaries contributed to excessive land litigation; and where succession rules led to excessive fragmentation and sub-division of holdings.