Dar es Salaam — The government has reiterated its intention to repossess all land for which title deeds have been issued, but which has remained idle for a long time.
Speaking at public meetings in Tanga Region on Thursday, President John Magufuli said once the land was repossessed, it would be distributed to people who would use it.
Dr Magufuli said he had already revoked ownership of five estates with a total of 14,000 acres which were left idle for many years.
The President arrived in the region by road and addressed a number of meetings in Handeni, Korogwe and Muheza districts. He is expected to officiate at the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of the 1,400km Hoima-Tanga oil pipeline alongside his Ugandan counterpart, Mr Yoweri Museveni, tomorrow.
"Here in Tanga, land ownership has always been a contentious matter, but my government is determined to end the land disputes. Out of 72 estates that have been lying idle for years, I have already revoked ownership of five.
"The commissioner for lands has already issued notice to 12 owners. I'm waiting for the minister to present the files to me and I will not hesitate to revoke their ownership," he said while addressing residents of Mkanyageni in Muheza District.
According to the President, while majority of the poor residents were struggling for farming land, estate owners failed to develop the swathes of lands and instead used the tittle deeds to access hefty loans from local and foreign banks and run other businesses.
"The people were barred from accessing the lands, and the few times that they tried to they were met with state apparatus. The estates became a breeding ground for snakes, this is unacceptable," he said.
Tanga Regional Commissioner Martine Shigela told the President that they have already submitted to the commissioner of lands their land distribution proposals for the revoked title deeds in the region.
"We're planning to offer three acres per person, that way we will still have ample land for investors and future generations," he said.
Dr Magufuli assured the residents that he will sign the recommendations the moment they reach his office.
"I'm okay with the proposals, provided that the poor will be offered some land, even if it is five acres per person, it'll still be okay. I'm ready to sign the proposals the first thing I return to Dar es Salaam next week. I want the whole process to be completed before the next rain season. I want people to farm the lands as soon as possible."
In his first stop of the day in Handeni District, the president ordered the National Service to return 50 acres of land to Mkata Village after failing to develop it for seven years.
The National Service had requested the land from the village government stating that they were going to construct a factory in the area. Seven years later the land was yet to be developed and local government leaders told President Magufuli that they would like to get back the land.
"If they failed to utilise the land for seven years, it means they don't have the means to do so and they can't build the factory in the near future," argued Dr Magufuli.
"There are land challenges here, and therefore that land should be returned to the village effective today. If other investors are to be found then they can be given the land. We need development," insisted the President.
Meanwhile the President gave the minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, a 15-day ultimatum to probe the use of Sh500 million which had been released for construction of a government hospital in the area.
For her part, the minister told the villagers and their MP Mboni Mhita (CCM) that there's already Sh800 million allocated for another phase of the construction but this will only be disbursed after the probe on the first allocation.