A LAND dispute pitting villagers at Mkono wa Mara in Mkambarani Ward, Morogoro Rural District against a Norwegian investor has resulted in a stalemate between the two parties which had once formed a joint farming venture.
In a month-long investigation, the 'Sunday News' has established that the village land which was leased to the investor in a mutual understanding, for cultivation of annual crops, was being put up for sale, without their consent.
According to Said Abdallah (58), who is the area Social Services Chairman and Juma Mwinyimvua, the Village Chairman, some visitors (of Asian descent) have been shown around the 2,300 acre farms by the Norwegian Investor, Mr Erling Eriksen.
"The investor did not pay us a single cent for our land which he is now putting up for sale. This is contrary to our mutual agreement with him," said the two villagers.
The two villagers told the 'Sunday News' that records of a meeting convened by the village committee to discuss an application or request by the investor's company named Tukwa Estate Company Ltd, with Registration No. 45490, in 2003, show that the farms were given him on condition that no perennial crops would be planted without the approval of the village's authority.
The villagers also said they were surprised to see that the name of the investor's company mysteriously changed from Tukwa Estate Company Ltd to Ngerengere Estate Co, Ltd. "The fact is, we leased our land to Tukwa Estate Company not Ngerengere.
We sensed that something was amiss when we saw a new farm manager named Ms Edna Sitta replacing Mr Clement Tukwa, while the company's sign board changed to Ngerengere," the villagers said, adding however, that the names of the company did not really bother them.
What angers them is the attempt to sell their land without their consent. In a spot check on the farms, the 'Sunday News' found that no agricultural activities were carried out since 2009 as there is another dispute between the new farm manager (Ms Edna Sitta) and Ngerengere Company Director, Mr Eriksen.
When approached for comment on the status of Mr Eriksen in the past four years, the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) said he was still recognized as a lawful investor. His company was said to have a stake in maize, beans and simsim production. Asked to explain how a foreigner could sell land which in essence is a property of the government, the TIC Director - Investment Facilitation, Ms Nakuala Senzia said if that happened, authorities would take appropriate measures according to the law of the land.
In a telephone interview, Morogoro District Commissioner, Shaidi Amanzi admitted he was aware of the standoff. "It is true that Mr Eriksen and Mr Tukwa (formally with Tukwa Estate Co.) consulted me and sought my advice on the matter. I discovered that the matter was just too complicated. Eriksen asked Tukwa to meet him in his house located at Forest Hill area to resolve the matter.
The latter however, declined the invitation insisting that at such a meeting, the original company shareholders should be present," Amanzi explained.
In a turn of events, the investigation discovered that Mr Tukwa had filed a complaint with BRELA seeking to know the status of his ownership in Tukwa Estates Company and later Ngerengere Co.
The complainant mentioned Mr Erling Eriksen and his wife Bjorg B Eriksen as the majority shareholder in Ngerengere Co. Efforts by the 'Sunday News' to get access to the Ngerengere Co. file at BRELA did not bear fruit.
For four days consecutively, BRELA clerks failed to produce the file even after a fee was paid, citing a 'tedious' process to access it. More efforts to get Mr Eriksen version of the land saga, also proved futile. While he answered e-mails sent to him, he was completely inaccessible when he was visited on the farms in Morogoro.