Why repossessing open spaces hard in Dar

31Jan 2016
Guardian On Sunday
Why repossessing open spaces hard in Dar

AS crackdown on land misappropriation is in full swing in the onset of President John Magufuli’s government, its implementers-cum-masterminds some of whom are still at the helms are systematically abusing the land and housing policy they pioneered about 10 years ago, the Guardian has learnt.

President John Magufuli

They include the current president who was the minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development in President Jakaya Kikwete’s government right from the start and the current minister of the same portfolio William Lukuvi who was also a member of Kikwete’s ministerial cabinet. Professor Anna Tibaijuka who succeeded Magufuli in leading the ministry also sang from the same hymn sheet as her predecessor. Though she was later fired from the government in connection with corruption, she has re-emerged in the fifth-phase government as an elected parliamentarian.
At issue is about government retrieval of the illegally occupied surveyed land plots including open spaces especially in Dar es Salaam, a city notoriously reputed for the ill and the mechanism behind the ongoing demolition exercise. But nearly three months into Magufuli’s government, none of the loudly trumpeted plots has been reportedly retrieved.
However, stakeholders in land and housing sector have smelt a rat, suspecting individuals and organizations in the high echelons of power of invading and hoarding the black listed land plots rendering it impossible for the culprits to stretch a rope to hang themselves.
Sources within the government circles, acquainted with the occupied spaces in the city’s three municipalities of Kindondoni, Ilala and Temeke have told this paper that almost all previous Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development portfolio ministers failed to take back the plots for a very “strange reason.”
They say land officials are used as a shield to safeguard the interests of senior and influential government officials and other bigwigs in command of the industry. They say it would be an arduous task for the president to handle as the ruling party is the entity behind the wheel of the corrupted industry.
“Random land use in Dar es Salaam could not have been possible without the patronage of dishonest land officials, some known to have issued land occupancy documents to family members,” said William Lukuvi, Lands, Housing and Human Settlements minister last October.
He had launched a probe team that revealed 104 open spaces out of 154 surveyed sites to have been illegally occupied.
The team leader, Albina Burra cited Kinondoni as a municipality that took a lion’s share in the illpractice, saying it had 88 would-be open spaces out of 110 surveyed sites grabbed, with Ilala having only 11 out of its 30 spaces illegally sold out against Temeke’s five out of 11 open spaces.
Efforts to reach municipal officials in charge of land and town planning on any notable strategies that would eventually see reinstatement the proper land use, have proved futile.
Kinondoni Municipal Engineer Baraka Mkuya could neither confirm nor deny when asked if the illegally developed structures in open spaces would be demolished, but the Municipal Town Planner , Julia Letara did not respond to repeated phone calls on Thursday.
Ilala Municipal Engineer also referred the reporter to a land officer who declined to comment saying it was prerogative of the town planner, who was equally dodgy, to speak to the press.
The dodgy approach comes nearly two months after minister Lukuvi had pledged to commit himself to retrieve into the government’s hands all the grabbed open spaces in Dar es Salaam and across the nation.

“I’m sending a message to all who have been invading open spaces to vacate as soon as possible. We shall turn all the stones to clear everything,” he made the pledge earlier last month during the swearing in ceremony to the new ministerial portfolio.
But he was reading the same script as of his 2010 DC tenure in Dar es Salaam and echoing the same message of his boss Dr Magufuli when he was the minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development in 2007.
Magufuli issued a warning on December 19 that year that he would give the then President Kikwete a list of “officials using their influence to grab open spaces or unsurveyed tracts of land belonging to others.”

He was speaking at a ceremony to hand over letters of offer to 250 people who would be issued with title deeds for houses built in the city under a special scheme overseen by the ministry at Hananasif and Mkunguni in Kinondoni Municipality.

“I am fed up of having to attend to a mass of written proposals from some directors at the district level seeking to alter the status of open spaces. Next time I will have no option but to forward the proposals to the President so that he too gets to know the government officials acting contrary to the laws of the land,” observed minister Magufuli.
He also took a swipe at those fond of randomly pulling down buildings and other structures believed to be located at the wrong spots. He said so doing was contrary the Land Acquisition Act that recognises and defends the rights of squatters.

“Nearly 75 per cent of all urban residents in our country live in unplanned areas. What do you do with all these people – really demolish all their houses?” he asked, rhetorically, adding: “No, they need to be assisted through improvement of infrastructure and availability of reliable supplies of water, power and other basic social services. They should be assisted so that they have their land surveyed to let them live more conveniently.”
Citing the plight of valley and mountain dwellers in different parts of the country often targeted for eviction after being classified as people flagrantly flouting land and settlement laws and regulations, the minister noted: “They too need to be conveniently assisted where they are until their safety is guaranteed. Think of the Netherlands where some cities are below sea level or Switzerland where many people live on the mountains.”
The minister made the crowd burst into laughter when he called on land officials, some of whom were around, to fear God when serving the public.
“I will always defend the people’s rights and make sure that land is used as planned. I want to remain faithful until I die so that, while in heaven, I can take charge of the Land department there to make sure that no one is given a raw deal,” Magufuli further noted, adding that according to Land Act Number 2 of 2002, land owners have the right to sue officials they believe to have illegally demolished their structures.
But stakeholders say the ongoing demolition exercise in Magufuli’s government is a clear contrast of his remark as a minister under Kikwete’s government.
Prof Anna Tibaijuka, on her day two after being appointed Lands, Housing and Human Settlements minister, briefed the media on her work plan at her office in Dar es Salaam on December 2010 that she had ordered all people illegally occupying open spaces to surrender them before what she termed ‘land ranger operation’ starts.
She called upon the hoarders of illegal spaces to surrender the property or else be taken to task.
A source from land department said when the minister decided to have a tour in some of the open spaces, it was revealed that the invaders included either top officials in the ruling party or the party itself that have turned the areas into offices, parking lots and real estate developments.
“There was an incident when a group of party officials came out to receive the minister and made the minster sign in the book of visitors,” he said.

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