Members of Parliament yesterday said the prevailing land conflicts cannot be properly addressed without revisiting the country’s fundamental law.
Contributing to the 2011/12 Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development budget debate legislators said the escalating land conflicts are fueled by the prevailing legal framework which considers land as an asset of the state and not individuals.
They said this loophole creates an environment for land officers and other government officials to steal land from wananchi and sell it to wealthy people so called investors.
Israel Natse (Karatu, Chadema) proposed that land ownership in Tanzania should have a special place in the constitution, saying that such a strategy would help save people’s land from the grabbers.
Bad contracts entered between the government and investors on land also fueled land conflicts in the country, he said, adding that the government can not escape blame.
The signing of land contracts between the government and investors without involving the communities living around the area given to investors according to Natse, is a mistake that needs to be rectified.
Rev Natse cautioned the government that the current land grabbing trend, which goes in the name of attracting investors, would turn majority of the rural population landless. Should this happen, many people would become slaves in their own land.
Suzan Kiwanga (Special Seats, Chadema) noted that only one per cent of the country’s land has been surveyed since independence, adding that in this situation the public and government should not expect land conflicts to scale down.
Ezekia Wenje (Nyamagana, Chadema) said favouring investors in the allocation of land was a ‘smart move’ to bring back the settlers who were chased away after independence.
“By bringing the settlers back in the name of attracting investors we are bringing back colonial rule,” Wenje observed.
The opposition lawmaker said the same policy that failed in Zimbabwe, prompting President Robert Mugabe to forcefully take over farms belonging to whites is now being implemented in Tanzania.
Supporting the proposal to make land ownership a constitutional matter, Vincent Nyerere (Musoma Urban, Chadema) said in so doing it would make it easy for members of the public to get bank loans.
Halima Mdee (Kawe, Chadema) called upon the government to implement the recommendations made by the commission formed William Lukuvi, a former Regional Commissioner on land grabbing in Dar es Salaam.
Speaking on the controversial land agreement between Mpanda District Council and a US-based investor - Agrisol Energy LLC, the outspoken MP said the contract was the worst case of land grabbing in the country.
She also said the ministry has yet to settle the long outstanding land compensation to nearly 2000 Kwembe villagers who were asked to move out to allow the construction of Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) campus.
She noted that the villagers have for the last four years not been allowed to do any farming on the land.
Sylivester Koka (Kibaha, CCM) called upon the government to review the present land laws and procedures to be followed in allocating land to investors saying this is necessary after land, village officers and planners have turned into the biggest violators of the same.
During the debate, many MPs complained of existence of land conflicts in their constituencies, a problem they attributed to bad contracts entered between government officers and investors on one hand and poor compensation to wananchi.