A MAJORITY of widowed and elderly women in Karatu District in Arusha region, risk losing their land to land grabbers, a baseline survey, conducted by 'Daily News' has established.
A number of the women who spoke to this newspaper (names withheld as most of the cases are pending in courts of law) also took issues with some judicial officials at the Karatu District Land and Housing Tribunal whom they accused of receiving bribes to influence judgments.
Former Karatu District Commissioner who was recently transferred to Sumbawanga, Mr Mathew Sedoyeka, admitted that there were many land cases in which widows are complainants against some rich and influential individuals. "In most cases, men lease out their farms to other people to carry out farming activities but when they die, the tenants claim they had bought the respective farms from the deceased," Mr Sedoyeka told the 'Daily News' in his office recently.
Adding; "I have been here for long and such land cases are rampant. The district office has on separate occasions advised that such leasing agreements should involve the family to avoid conflicts when the head of the family passes on." Mr Sedoyeka also advised residents in the district to shun selling land and instead enter into partnerships with investors wishing to buy their land for various development activities.
"The scramble for land is on the rise in the district due to increased tourism and farming activities, we always advise the residents that they would be in a better position if they entered into partnerships with the potential investors rather than selling land," he advised. He expressed concerns that if the rate of selling land among the residents to investors and other developers continue, a number of families risk being left without land.
"However, all those who feel offended and cheated on their land they should report the matter to the district office for resolution," remarked the DC. Some of the cases have been forwarded to the High Court, Land Division in Arusha where most of the women are unable to attend the cases as they lack transport fare and money to pay advocates.
"Most of these women have their land grabbed due to financial constraints. They can hardly follow proceedings in Arusha and pay advocates," according to Ward Executive Officer (WEO) for Karatu, Mr Paulo Lagwen. Cases of land grabbing are widespread in Rhotia Ward in Karatu District, along the main road to Ngorongoro National Parks where land grabbers target pieces of land to put up tourist hotels, lodges, camping camps among others.
The Rhotia Ward Executive Officer (WEO), Mr Jackson Sulle, admitted of the tendency, noting that his office has always advised that all land dealings should be passed through the ward or village office for approval. "If a transaction passes through the ward of village office it becomes easier for us to make decisions in case something happens," Mr Sulle said. For his part, the Secretary General of Karatu NGO Network (KANGONET), Mr Patrick Best, said his office had been receiving many cases of women whose land has been grabbed.
"My office is held back by financial and human resources to assist the women. I, however, try my best to ensure that their cases are being forwarded to the courts of law," he said during an interview with this paper. Mr Best proposed for a legal aid services in the district to assist the women who can hardly afford services of lawyers.