Why land takeover, compensation and resettlement are thorny issues

All governments have the power to take land compulsorily when it is required for public purposes. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • All governments have the power to take land compulsorily when it is required for public purposes

The media has reported on at least three cases of compulsory land acquisition, compensation and resettlement in Tanzania in recent weeks. One is related to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP). It is reported on this that all Project Affected Persons (PAPs) are happy with the compensation and resettlement arrangements, and some were shown starting a new life, sporting their better-than-they-had-before, Project provided houses.

The second is related to the Komarera Village in Tarime District. The village borders North Mara Gold Mine and villagers in-there, had to be compensated for their removal to allow mining activities. Some 350 PAPs accepted the compensation (amounting to some Sh24 billion) and moved elsewhere to start a new life; but some 70 PAPs were not satisfied and moved to the courts to seek redress.

The third case is related to the Msimbazi Valley Project, where some PAPs are happy with the compensation and some are most unhappy. One was quoted as saying that the Sh1.2 million assessed for her two-bedroom house was a clear death sentence.

What we see is that in the same country, PAPs can be happy with resettlement arrangements in one project and be unhappy in another. Also, in one Project, some PAPs can be happy and others unhappy.

This clearly calls for understanding. Indeed a debate has been raging in some social media among professionals related to valuation for compensation purposes, some blaming the law, others blaming unprofessional practices and yet others blaming the PAPs for having unrealistic expectations. In some cases, political agitation and personal agendas are suspected in fomenting dissatisfaction.

All countries in the world have powers to take land compulsorily (known as powers of eminent domain) when it is required for public purposes. There has been contention on what is to be understood as “public purposes”.

According to the Land Acquisition Act 1967 of Tanzania “Public Purposes” are where land is needed for exclusive government use, for general public use, for any government scheme, for the development of agricultural land or for the provision of sites for industrial, commercial development, social services or housing; for, or, in connection with sanitary improvement of any kind including reclamations; and, for, or, in connection with laying out of any new city, municipality, township or minor settlement or the extension or improvement of any existing city, municipality, township or minor settlement.

Other cases is where land is required for, or, in connection with the development of any airfield, port or harbour; for, or, in connection with mining for minerals or oil; for use by the Community or a Corporation within the Community (meaning the East African Community); and, for use by any person or group of persons who in the opinion of the President, should be granted such land for agricultural development.

The Land Acquisition Act 1967, growing, as it is from the colonial Land Acquisition Ordinance, is aged and has been bettered by subsequent legislations especially the Land Act 1999 and also the Valuation and Valuers Registration Act of 2015, but there have been calls and even attempts to overhaul it, attempts that have stalled in their steps.

There is a list of “best practices”, which, if followed, could reduce dissatisfaction with compulsory land acquisition and resettlement. Drawing on these, the following is recommended, to better the Tanzania practice:

One, the principle of putting the PAPs is a situation of equivalence, that the PAPs should not be worse or better off than they were before should be looked at with a clear eye of making the PAPs better off within limits. A PAP with a dilapidated house should not be given the value of a dilapidated house since it is not possible to build such a house. Surely, if PAPs are living in a flood prone-area, equivalence should not mean putting them in a similar situation.

Given that PAPs are deriving utility from such old properties, this needs to be taken into consideration, justifying their being given a new, or the equivalent of a new house (within agreed limits). In the Msimbazi Valley years ago, when the Japanese company Kajima expanded the road and constructed a bridge, all those affected were resettled in new houses in the Ubungo area. In this case, like is the case with EACOP, there was only rejoicing not moaning. Let the PAPs be put in a better position.

Transparency is also important, emanating from a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) which shows the assets to be acquired, the geographical limits of the acquisition area, the cut-off points, the methods of valuation, all of which are publicly discussed and agreed before hand.

Prompt compensation and resettlement is also very important not valuation today and payment several years down the road. No ulterior motive should be suspected, and those conducting the exercise should be independent and people of known integrity.

PAPs also need to be given the benefit of doubt, where for example they occupy public land without knowing, and the public turns a blind eye for years.

The public should be in control of its land and should show presence should that land be encroached upon.

There have been calls for Tanzania to develop a national Resettlement Policy Framework meeting international standards, and a new Land Acquisition Act. The time is now.