Land motion sparks hot debate in House
Published: 09 Nov 2012
Posted in: Tanzania
Land motion sparks hot debate in House
By Rodgers Luhwago
A heated debate ensued yesterday in Parliament after Kawe lawmaker Halima Mdee moved a private motion calling on the House to adopt a resolution pressing the government to suspend the allocation of huge chunks of land for investment to foreigners.
MPs put their political ideologies aside and rallied behind Mdee’s private motion, though ministers who contributed to the motion appeared to slightly differ with the legislators.
Tabling the motion, the outspoken MP, who also doubles as shadow minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development said increasing land conflicts in various corners of the country had prompted her to call for suspension of allocation of parcels of land to foreign investors.
She said after suspension of the exercise a special assessment and survey be carried out to establish the amount of land that had so far been dished out to foreigners for investment.
Mdee said the measures would enable the government to get correct statistics on land so far given to foreigners for investment. According to Mdee, currently the ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development had no clear statistics on land that was in the hands of foreign investors.
The shadow minister said reports collected from various parts of the country showed that a number of multinational companies had taken over land for investment by pushing away villagers, thus fomenting land conflicts.
She said some investors who got the chunks of land had failed to develop them and instead leased them to villagers at exorbitant prices.
Esther Bulaya (CCM- Special seats) said it was true that Tanzania was in need of investors, but urged the government to conduct due diligence on some foreigners who posed as investors while they were in fact only ‘land traders’.
Bulaya said failure by the government to survey lands in the country was the major factor fuelling conflicts in various areas. A similar observation was shared by Kigoma MP Peter Serukamba.
Henry Shekifu (CCM- Lushoto) called for a review of all land laws to ensure no foreign investors got land easily.
The blame was also apportioned to land officers in the country who have been deliberately violating land laws to suit their personal objectives.
Pauline Gekul ( Chadema- Special Seats) said conflicts in the country would continue as long as the government had no data on land earmarked for pastoralism, farming, foreign investment (general public land) and that for villagers.
Gekul also used the occasion to blame investors who were awarded Basotu and Nafco farms in Manyara region for failing to develop them and instead are now leasing them to villagers.
But minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development Prof Anna Tibaijuka, when contributing to the motion, appeared to differ with other MPs as, according to her, it was improper for the government to suspend inviting foreigners to invest in the land sector.
The minister said land laws were very clear when it comes to land acquisition, pointing out that land officers, including village leaders, were sometimes violating them to suit their personal ends.
Giving an example, the minister said a village, under the law, was not supposed to award more than 50 acres of land to any investor, but some village leaders in the country were noted to have gone beyond the ceiling.
She said in case an investor wanted more than 50 acres of land in a particular area a district council was the only organ to process the application provided the request did not go beyond 500 acres.
Summing up her motion, Lands minister, Prof Tibaijuka accepted to amend parts of the motion promising bring more changes in the April House.
Ealier Leader of Opposition camp in the House, Freeman Mbowe had intervened in the heated discussion between the ruling party side CCM and the Opposition side advising the minister to consider bringing in the House some of the proposals that the opposition had suggested which however had been rejected by the minister.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN