How tycoon robbed widow of prime area plot

27Mar 2016
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
How tycoon robbed widow of prime area plot
  • *Donee abused a power of attorney to sell the plot to six different people while donor was resident abroad

SOME few months after the death of her dear husband Yasin Osman in 1977 in London, Saada Osman felt duty bound both as a mother and a trustee to develop a plot her husband had bought on Mindu Street in the upmarket Upanga area in Dar es Salaam.

Saada particularly wanted to improve the house she and her husband had built on the plot a few years back, but she found it difficult to go about the mission when she and her children were living in England, thousands of kilometres from the site.

Before her husband was sent to Tanzania’s High Commission in the United Kingdom in 1973, he served as Clerk to the National Assembly in the city while Saada was employed by Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) as personal secretary to the company’s executive chairman. One of her co-workers, who also turned out to be a very close friend, was Prema Sarah Larji, then a typist in the firm’s typing pool.

While the husband was busy as a diplomat Saada managed to secure employment with the Commonwealth Association, and after his body was interred in Tanzania she returned to London to pursue her career until 2005 when she returned home to Tanzania for good.

“When my family moved to the UK I kept in close touch with Prema,” Saada told the Guardian on Sunday this week, adding: “After she (Prema) opened a foreign bank account in London I was the one who operated it on her behalf. We totally trusted each other and I didn’t lose or misspend even a penny of her money in that account. In the end she bought a house in London with the money I managed for her.”

So, when Saada needed someone to look after the family plot on Mindu Street and to improve the house on it, it was her bosom friend Prema she naturally turned to. To facilitate her friend’s work, Saada issued a power of attorney to Prema dated January 19, 1988.

And that, in retrospect, may have been her gravest mistake.
Yasin Osman, who was a lawyer, in August 1973, had drawn up his last will and testament witnessed by a city famous advocate, H. Muccadam. In the will Osman was very particular about who he wanted the owners of the plot on Mindu Street bearing Title No. 186211/6 (Plot No 578, Mindu Street, Upanga) to be - the plot would belong wholly and exclusively to his children.

The will reads in part, “I hereby declare that the property comprised in the trust instrument executed by me on the 6th day of August, 1973, in favour of my children FAHMA YASIN OSMAN, ABDULQADAR YASIN OSMAN and any other child or children hereinafter born of my marriage with the said SAADA OSMAN shall not constitute or be part of my estate and that the said trust shall be treated as a waqf for the purposes of the Islamic law.”

A copy of this trust instrument, this paper believes, must be lying in one of the numerous files with the Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA).

“The purpose of giving Prema the power of attorney over the plot was solely to allow her carry on improvement of our house without impediment and to ensure it was not encroached on,” she told this paper, “I did this as a trustee for my young children because the plot did not belong to me at all.”

However, a few months after receiving the power of attorney, Prema allegedly drastically reduced the frequency of communication with Saada and updates about the rebuilding of the house became even fewer.

But she got the first shock of her life when she moved back to Tanzania in 2005 and found that there were several completed and occupied storeyed buildings standing on the plot, and, to her horror, she quickly learnt that all of them belonged to other people not even remotely related to her or her children.

She experienced the second shock when she learnt that the plot had in fact been divided into two parts, Plot 578A and Plot 578B, by the Lands ministry against all city planning regulations and laws.

She says that her frequent pleas to ministry officials to make an on-site inspection of the plot with a view to rectifying this planning apparition has always fallen on deaf ears and sometimes attracted insulting comments from them.

Meanwhile, Prema reportedly kept avoiding meeting her. So, Saada took it upon herself to try to unearth what might have transpired about the plot in her absence, and what she discovered was as dumbfounding as it was heart-rending.

To start with, after countless follow-ups at the Lands ministry where she met hostile officials, she discovered that Prema, on the strength of the power of attorney, had on January 4, 1996, managed to sell the plot for Sh18 million to six different individuals to whom she also transferred the right of occupancy (subtitles) for their respective portions of the plot, reserving 1/7th of the plot for Saada.

“This was preposterous,” Saada told this writer this week. “I certainly didn’t instruct Prema to sell any portion of the plot as I legally did not have the power to do so because I was merely a trustee. As for the sale money, I didn’t see or touch even a shilling of it. Prema pocketed the whole lot.”

Those who purportedly bought the plot portions and were subsequently issued with subtitles by the Lands ministry, according to a Transfer of Right of Occupancy deed witnessed by advocate (as he then was) Kassim Nyangarika, were Karim Diamond Ramzanali Jiwa Rajan and Zubeda Diamond Ramzanali Jiwa Rajan; Mohamed Shabirahmed Ibrahim, Yasin Abdulkader Ibrahim, Sadik Shabirahmed Ibrahim and Hanif Mohamed Abdulkader Ibrahim; Mrs Najima Abdul Majid.
Others were Ketan Mukundlal Khakhar; Ibrahim Asgarali Somji, and Sheliza Jetha, all being Dar es Salaam residents.

Since her arrival back in the country to date, Saada has been waging a single-handed battle to reclaim her children’s plot and to have the buildings constructed on it demolished so she can hand it over to the rightful beneficiaries, who are now fully grown up.

It has undoubtedly been an uphill task. The Lands ministry, for instance, in September 2013, informed her that, according to the Limitation Act pertaining to claims on land, she was already time-barred to institute moves to reclaim the plot as more than 12 years had already lapsed.

But a High Court advocate, Said Malindi, does not believe that hers is an entirely hopeless cause.
“There is something legally seriously amiss about this transfer of right of occupancy by a donee of a power of attorney,” Malindi told this paper. He said a power of attorney does not confer ownership of the subject matter to the donee, stressing that ownership remains with the donor.

“You cannot sell what does not belong to you, as happened in this particular case,” he said, adding: “Since the plot in question was actually in trust and the donor was just a trustee in the first place, the Lands ministry should have been extra careful in having the plot sale registered without consulting the donor. There is an element of fraud about this transfer.”

He said Saada could resort to Accrual of Cause of Action and appeal to the minister in charge of land matters for an application for extension of time to file a suit before a competent court.

“If the minister is satisfied with the reasons advanced by the applicant, he will grant an extension of half the time the applicant is out of time. This lady has compelling reasons to sway the minister,” Malindi said.

Saada’s hope of recovering her children’s plot is particularly emboldened by President John Magufuli’s determination to fight corruption among civil servants, and Lands Minister William Lukuvi’s ongoing drive to cleanse the ministry of graft and oppression, especially of the common people.

To that end she has already written letters to Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa; Constitutional and Legal Affairs Minister Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, and Attorney General George Masaju.

As if to give her a ray of hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel regarding her issue, on Wednesday she received a copy of a letter from the Prime Minister’s private secretary to the Lands ministry permanent secretary instructing him to send details about the plot to him because the prime minister wants to look into the matter.

Dr Mwakyembe and Masaju are yet to communicate with her, but she is in high spirits now that somebody important has shown interest in learning about her plight.

When contacted by this paper to hear her version of the issue, Prema Larji referred the writer to her lawyer who, when the writer rang him, he would not pick up his phone on several occasions.