Why land disputes dominate complaints to legal aid campaign

Land pic

What you need to know:

  • Land disputes are at the centre of four in every ten matters registered by the Mama Samia Legal Aid Campaign

Dar es Salaam. Despite Tanzania having a surface area that is larger than Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi combined, land disputes are prevalent in the country.

Land disputes are at the centre of four in every ten matters registered by the Mama Samia Legal Aid Campaign.

“Land disputes, compensation issues, double allocation of land and inheritance-related disputes are the most common types of matters related to land reported by people in the regions we have reached so far,” the acting director of legal aid services in the Constitutional and Legal Affairs ministry, Ms Ester Msambazi, said at the 48th Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF) on Sunday.

Disputes involving childcare were second at 12 percent of all the registered cases so far, followed by matrimonial and inheritance matters, accounting for 11 percent and nine percent, respectively.

Also on the list are gender-based violence (eight percent), allegations of criminal offences (four percent), employment disputes (three percent) and others (five percent).

According to Constitutional and Legal Affairs permanent secretary Mary Makondo, the high number of land disputes partly stems from the fact that many Tanzanians are aware of their right to own land.

“The other factor contributing to this is people’s tendency to not to wills. We call upon Tanzanians to cultivate the culture of writing wills to avoid needless land disputes and matrimonial issues,” she said at the DITF.

Corruption among some local government leaders and greed for money in major cities are other factors behind the high number of land disputes.

Speaking at the Mama Samia Legal Aid Campaign section of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs ministry pavilion at the DITF on Sunday, a resident of Mbezi Msakuzi who identified herself only as Alice, said the desire to hoard large swathes of land means that those with deep pockets often outmuscle the poor.

“Actually, that is what has brought me here today. My plot was grabbed by someone who claims it was his land. He is a moneyed individual who thinks he can do what he desires. I have reported the matter to the local government office and later filed a court case, but justice has yet to be done,” she said.

A resident of the city’s Chanika area, Ms Happiness Msuya, said corruption among local government officials is a major cause of land disputes in the country, adding that it is not surprising to see land being sold to three or more people in some areas.

“So, you find yourself buying a plot that has already been sold to someone else, but you will be provided with all the relevant documents as was the case with the person who bought the same plot before you and the cycle continues,” she said.

Research shows that most land disputes are also a result of inadequate grazing areas, changes in the land tenure system, ineffective legislation on pastoralism and climate change, among other factors.

Ms Msambazi said since the launch of the Mama Samia Legal Aid Campaign in April last year, the initiative has reached 493,000 individuals and provided much-needed legal support to those who need it.

“The campaign has so far visited Dodoma, Manyara, Shinyanga, Ruvuma, Singida, Simiyu and Njombe regions where 5,674 disputes were reported and 668 were resolved,” she said.

Ms Msambazi noted that the majority of people visiting the Constitutional and Legal Affairs ministry’s pavilion at the DITF were seeking legal advice on land disputes.

“As the fair continues, we also expect to see an increasing number of people with issues related to compensation,” she said.

The Mama Samia Legal Aid Campaign is a three-year initiative aimed at providing free legal aid services to Tanzanians who cannot afford the cost of advocates and lawyers.

Services offered include legal advice, court representation, lawyer referrals, document preparation and other essential legal interventions.

“Our goal is to ensure access to justice for all citizens, particularly those unable to afford legal services,” Ms Msambazi said.

The campaign’s success in its first year, particularly in resolving legal issues and engaging the public, demonstrates its crucial role in supporting Tanzanian citizens.

Since its inception in Dodoma, the campaign has made significant strides, expanding its reach to seven regions and continuously working to resolve a wide range of legal issues.

The ongoing engagement and positive outcomes from the campaign highlight the importance of such initiatives in promoting justice and legal support across the country.

Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (Tawla) executive director Tike Mwambipile said Tanzania has robust laws that safeguard citizens’ rights, adding, however, that awareness is lacking.

“For instance, the Land Act allows both men and women to own land, but the main obstacle lies in its implementation. Therefore, we welcome Mama Samia Legal Aid, which aims to address various related challenges,” she said.

With regarding childcare and GBV, Ms Mwambipile highlighted that the issue transcends legislation due to entrenched norms and cultural practices.

“Everyone should shoulder the responsibility of caring for children. Unfortunately, it is often men who neglect this responsibility,” she said.