‘We were wrong on farm dispute’

Sumbawanga. The government has admitted to have wrongly handled the issuance of the title deed over 10,000 acres of land to an investor, Efatha Ministries.

The mishandling led to a land dispute pitting villagers against owners of the Mloje Dafco Farm. This admission was made via a statement issued by Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development minister William Lukuvi in a meeting with officials from Sumbawanga District in Rukwa Region on Wednesday.

The minister expressed his disappointment towards the failure by Sumbawanga Urban Member of Parliament Aeshi Hilaly and his Kwela counterpart Ignas Malocha to explain the matter properly to the villagers and instead giving them the hope that the land would be returned to them. He claimed that the duo have been promising the villagers through public meetings that they had the powers to give the land back to them.

Mr Lukuvi urged that the investor should not be dragged into the dispute and should be allowed to continue investing in the farm and run the projects.

According to him, the mistake was done by government officials during the process of privatisation. “The government has no intentions of revoking the title deed over the Efatha farm because they got it legally. Our officials were the ones who sold it without carefully looking at its boundaries,” he said.

“It will be repeating the mistake by re-allocating the land to Sikaungu Village, as the move would be unfair to Efatha,” he added.

Mr Lukuvi suggested to the investor to release a portion of the farm for the villagers to undertake their economic activities. He said if all goes well, then the government would revisit the boundaries so that some land would be allocated to the villages.

The nine-year dispute resulted after Sumbawanga Municipal authorities took orders from the regional authorities to sell the farm to Efatha Ministries in 2008 at the cost of Sh600 million.

Earlier, Sumbawanga Urban MP Hilaly asked the government to consider all 24 villages surrounding the farm so that they would all benefit from the new negotiations.

For his part, Rukwa regional commissioner Zelothe Steven asked the villagers to be calm as the matter was being negotiated.