Tanzania: Secondary School Loses Ownership of 300-Acre Bid

PRIVATE-owned Ikizu Secondary School has lost its bid of claiming ownership of 300 acres in Bunda District, Mara Region, from Sarawe Village Council. This followed the Court of Appeal's decision to dismiss with costs the appeal the appellant had lodged to fault the findings of the High Court of Tanzania in Mwanza.

"We hold that the challenge by the appellant to the decision of the trial judge is in want of merit. We accordingly dismiss the appeal," Justices Kipenka Mussa, Sivangilwa Mwangesi and Gerald Ndika said in their ruling.

They said it was evident that there was no evidence to establish that in 1974, 300 acres was allocated to the school.

Having considered the testimonies of witnesses and exhibits tendered during the trial, the justices were far from being convinced that the appellant managed to discharge the burden of establishing on balance of probabilities that he was allocated such acres.

According to them, there was crucial evidence to the effect that the school was allocated the land disputed by two others persons. The justices noted further that the school was requested to act on the portion of land, which it would afford to use expeditiously to let the remaining part to be used by villagers.

"Our interpretation of the information is that the size of the land assigned would depend on the ability of the appellant. From such (evidence) it could not be said that the appellant was allocated any plot let alone one measuring 300 acres," they said.

Facts show that in 1974, the appellant applied in writing for land from the ward secretary of Ikizu in Bunda District, Mara Region, for use. In response to the letter, the school was allocated the land by the relevant authorities and proceeded to use it uninterruptedly.

During the period of suing the land, the school nurtured natural trees grown thereon and also planted new ones. Also part of the plot was planted crops. In 2007, there was an attempt by some villagers of Hunyari to encroach it, but the issue was resolved amicably.

Later in 2011, the respondent encroached on the plot and thereby triggered lodging of a suit before the High Court of Tanzania in Mwanza with the school (the appellant) praying for declaratory orders that it was the rightful owner of the plot and demanded compensation of 60m/- for destruction of trees and crops.

Upon evaluating the evidence tendered by both sides, the trial judge ruled that the appellant had failed to establish his claim to the standard required by law and consequently dismissed the suit in its entirety with costs. The appellant decided to appeal to the Court of Appeal, which also has dismissed the appeal with costs.

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