OPINION: Land and Housing ministry doing a great job, but...

Friday December 6 2019

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

In any country, land is an important natural resource, and thus proper planning is needed on land use to reap maximum benefits.

A land use and housing policy, especially in urban areas, is a crucial portfolio, which needs to be managed properly.

It is important to have a clear policy about land and housing because it gives individuals and businesses confidence to invest in land, allows private companies to borrow using land as a collateral, expands job opportunities and enables governments to collect property taxes, which are necessary in financing the provision of infrastructure and social services.

This is a fundamental responsibility of any country that intends to develop.

From the late 1990s until around 2015 I saw Dar es Salaam transform into a jungle of cement and concrete.

High-rise buildings were constructed without proper planning regarding drainage and water and electricity supply to these new gigantic blocks of cement and concrete. Seeing this, I had two lingering questions in my mind.


First, where is all this money coming from and, secondly, who is supposed to oversee city planning. I tried to get some answers, but I should admit that money was more powerful than my simple, irrelevant queries. Since then, Dar’s skyline has changed dramatically.

Now the Minister of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, Mr William Lukuvi, has come up with an answer.

These tall buildings and towers were apparently built in partnership with National Housing Corporation (NHC). This is something I knew, but the details and specifics of these partnerships were top secret. Now Mr Lukuvi says that the partnership is 25 percent NHC and 75 percent private investors. So this is how Dar was sold to benefit the high and mighty.

The minister rightly wants to revisit the contracts, some 190 or so sloppy, one-sided contracts that smell to high heaven of corruption.

I wholeheartedly support Mr Lukuvi in this endeavour and other initiatives, including revisiting tenancy contracts, sale of NHC houses, sale of government quarters, mostly in Oysterbay area, where some civil servants reaped billions by re-selling the houses, most of which have been demolished to give way to high-rise buildings.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this initiative will be in the coming months, but let me ask some critical questions.

Honourable minister, when these plots were sold unethically and illegally, you were the Dar Regional Commissioner and later you were also part of the government as a minister. What did you do to stop this blatant daylight theft?

It’s a well know fact that your ministry has been involved in many scandals over the years.

These partnership contracts were not signed without some senior officials in your ministry getting kickbacks.

What are you doing with regard to some of the culprits who may still be surrounding you? It will be highly unfair to punish the investors only.

These questions are definitely raising a lot of suspicion and perhaps there is a need to thoroughly investigate your docket. The corruption and fraud in the Ministry of Lands and Housing is so big that to investigate it and do justice, we need another PCCB-like institution.

Access to land and land related benefits are an important factor in reducing poverty and promoting economic growth.

For example, empirical findings from more than 63 countries show that where corruption in land is less prevalent, it correlates to better development indicators, higher levels of foreign direct investment and increased crop yields.

Administration and management of land belongs to the domain of government authority (although cooperation with the private sector and civil parties is common), thus abuse of discretion might easily apply to land issues.

Formal decisions are necessary to register a property, grant a mortgage, impose or lift restrictions and allocate a certain land use, which implies discretionary powers of the public sector.

Nepotism and favouritism might easily apply to land issues, as access to land in many situations is dependent kinship, especially under customary law.

By consequence, in a world where corruption is getting worse, paying attention to corruption in land administration and management is inevitable.

Findings from a Transparency International survey in 2009 suggest that government bodies that oversee the land sector are among public entities most plagued by service-level bribery.

Honourable minister, this is the right time to address these issues before the election period because after the elections it is likely that new untainted blood will replace veterans.

It is an opportunity to clean up the ministry and its leadership. The Tanzanian population expects this from you.

Zulfiqarali Premji is a retired MUHAS professor. His career spans over 40 years in academia, research and public health.