The Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, Anna Tibaijuka
Thousands of villagers of Gama Makaani, Matipwili and Makurunge, located 40 kilometres from Bagamoyo in Coastal Region, have complained against the government’s plan to forcefully evict them from their village land and give it to an investor.
They have also complained of having received threats from government authorities that if they don’t vacate the place their structures including the CCM party building which is located near the main road will be demolished.
According to the investor, Anders Bergfors, his company, Eco-energy is planning on acquiring a total of 11,200 hectares from the former RAZABA Ranch, to grow sugarcane, but the villagers argue otherwise saying the proposed land under investment is 20,639 ha and not 11,200 hectares as the investor claims.
Speaking at a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday, a representatives of the villagers, Salumu Yusufu Timami said it was shocking to note that the government is backing the investor who invaded the villages in 2007 and accusing the villagers of living illegally in the area while the villagers have been staying legally in the villages for more than six decades.
Salumu, who attended his primary school in the village from 1954 to 1960, said in 2007, SEKAB Company invaded their villages and later on sold the land to Eco-energy without their knowledge.
According to the villagers, in 2008, some Bagamoyo district executives colluded with the investor and created a new land use plan, giving the investor 22,000ha of the former RAZABA Ranch without the villagers’ participation which means some 6,000 ha of their village land was illegally included in the new project map.
“A few weeks ago, the Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, Anna Tibaijuka was quoted in one of the local newspapers intimidating us to vacate the area or else face forceful eviction without deep knowledge of the matter. She should have critically and carefully examined the matter before engaging in an issue she knows little of,” they said.
When reached for comments on the matter, Minister Tibaijuka said she was not in a position to speak as she was in a meeting and promised to call back later on after the meeting.
“I am not in a position to say anything, I am in a meeting. I will call you back later on after the meeting,” she said briefly.
According to the villagers, the decision reached by the Minister to forcefully remove the villagers while the case was still in court was an interference with the judicial system and a way of directing the court to rule in favour of the investor.
For his part, the village CCM party Chairman Ali Thabiti Mgwega said the whole exercise was marred by corruption because in 2011 they were informed that the Bagamoyo district authorities in collaboration with the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) had given the investor a total of 20,639 hectares including the 6,000 hectares from the villages without the participation of the villages.
When contacted for comments on the matter a few weeks ago, the Managing Director of Eco-energy, Tanzania, Anders Bergfors, refuted the allegations saying they were baseless and unfounded saying it was the villagers who invaded the area.
According to the investor, the company first conducted sensitisation campaigns in which all villagers were involved, then launched demonstration farms at Matipwili village and when the villagers saw the demonstration rice farm schemes, they welcomed the project except some few villagers from Gama Makaani.
Commenting on Resettlement Action Programme (RAP), the investor said RAP was taking care of the resettlement process. So far, 450 households have been identified by the RAP and the process is still going on.
However, the exercise is interfered by a number of factors including foreigners who are flocking the area from Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam attempting to benefit from the exercise and the challenge of some villagers from Gama Makaani village who are against the whole project.