At least 30 posh houses came tumbling down in Dar es Salaam’s exclusive Mbezi Beach suburb at dawn yesterday in a largely unexpected operation meant to rid the area of structures standing within the mangrove conservation zone.
Among those looking on as bulldozers swung into action, under close watch by police and Majembe Auction Mart operatives, were officials from the Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development ministry, Tourism and Natural Resources ministry, Kinondoni Municipal Council and National Environment Management Council (NEMC).
Most of the houses pulled down were situated at Kilongawima in Kunduchi Ward, while four stood close to the banks of Ndumbwi and Mbezi rivers.
Sources said over 100 surveyed plots in the area are illegally owned and any housing built there are in an area reserved for mangrove, and all will be affected by the operation to enable water to flow freely into the Indian Ocean and facilitate the growth mangroves.
This paper has established that the demolitions caught some residents of the areas in question unawares, although alerts on the move had been issued well in advance to give them time to move out smoothly.
Rev George Makala (54) said he had lived in the area since 2002 “and not even once have government authorities or any other institution or person told me about the mangrove connection or warned me that I would one day be kicked out for living in an unauthorised area”. “I bought this chunk of land from officials of the CCM Youth Wing who were by then using it for farming activities. Local government authorities later issued me with residence permit number KUN/KIL/766,” he said, adding that it was unfair for the government to delay issuing him with an eviction notice.
But another resident, who preferred anonymity, applauded the government’s decision “to invoke the law in disciplining people and institutions using the power of the purse to break the law and cause unnecessary problems to other people and the nation”.
“Some of these people are well-placed socially and economically and turned a deaf ear to whatever they were being to do or not do. Most spent their money puttying up mansions despite knowing that the area was unfit for human settlements,” she noted.
NEMC Consideration and Execution Director Dr Robert Ntakamulenga explained that the operation sought “to protect and retain the flow of river waters into normal channels”, essentially meaning right into the ocean.
He said any interference with the water flow had the possibility of leading to floods “since the ocean would lose breathing space while the rivers stretching capacity decreases”.
Meanwhile, Tourism and Natural Resources ministry official Zawadi Mbwambo said the operation in essence started in 2008, and would cover all the three districts forming Dar es Salaam Region – Kinondoni, Ilala and Temeke.
The official said putting up any structures in areas reserved set aside for other uses was illegal “and anyone flouting the law should not expect mercy from any quarter”.
“The only houses that will survive the operation are those whose owners have supporting legal documents recognised by the ministry, or else one has to obtain a stop order from the Lands Division of the High Court,” noted Mbwambo.
Kinondoni Regional Police Commander Charles Kenyela later explained that the demolitions “ran peacefully, without any resistance from the owners of the buildings pulled down”.
He attributed the rare situation to the fact that all procedures, including notifying the residents affected in good time, were followed”.
Works minister Dr John Magufuli vowed in the National Assembly in Dodoma last week that no house or any other building or structure built on road reserves would left standing. He advised those not impressed to blame Members of Parliament “because they are the ones who passed legislation stipulating as much”.