14 December 2012

Tanzania: Scholar Testifies in Ponda Case

SHEIKH Habibu Ismail, a member of Ulamaa (Muslim Scholars) Council and the Prosecutors witness (PW 1) in the case against the Secretary of the Council of Muslims Organization, Sheikh Ponda Isa Ponda and his 49 followers, told the court that Bakwata agreed in principle to exchange its plot of land with Agritanza Limited.

Testifying at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court and led by State Attorney Tumaini Kweka, Sheikh Ismail said that Agritanza Limited owns the plot of land legally as Bakwata had agreed to exchange it after the Ulamaa Council held a meeting.

"On January 3, last year, Ulamaa Council members met and we asked the Secretary General of Bakwata to find for us a plot of land which could be suitable for building an Islamic University. On January 8 they told us that they had 40 acres for that purpose," he said.

Sheikh Ismail (who is also the Shinyanga Regional Sheikh) said that they went to see the area because they had doubts about the deal. They were giving away only four acres but were being offered 40 acres in exchange. "We went to Kisarawe to see the area as we did not see why they were giving us 40 acres while we had only four acres for them," he said.

The Prosecution Witness (PW 2), who is the Director of Agritanza Limited, Mr Suleiman Mohamed, noted that he overheard people speaking near the Mosque. They were saying that Bakwata needed 30 acres.

He added that after overhearing this, he and a colleague decided to find Bakwata so that they can exchange the plots of land. Mr Mohamed told the court that after exchanging the plots they built a perimeter wall in order to protect the plot of land from encroachment.

"Soon after we started building the wall, a group of 300 people invaded the area and started building a small house (kibanda)," he said. Mr Mohamed further noted that he did not know the accused personally. The case was adjourned to December 18, this year.

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