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Dealing with property related disasters need consistency

The current government approach shows a determination to resettle some of these valley dwellers. owever, a question that a professional or researcher in property matters could ask is whether there is consistency in government response to disaster. We look at four incidences namely, the Tabata Dampo saga of 2008, the Mbagala ammunition dump disaster (2009), the Gongo la Mboto ammunition dump explosions disaster (2011), and lastly, the recent Dar es Salaam flooding disaster (2011).

On February 29th 2008 the Ilala Municipal Council officials oversaw the demolition of some 96 properties that had been constructed on a disputed plot in an area commonly known as Tabata Dampo. For a week, some 500 affected people looked after themselves, some living in the open air others getting accommodated by neighbours or living in institutional properties.

Around the 7th March, Regional Authorities intervened, condemned the demolitions and eventually had the Municipal officials face disciplinary action. The government’s reaction, after a week of non-action, was to consider those who had lost their properties to be entitled to compensation. All property owners, irrespective of the type of their property were paid compensation at a flat rate of 20,000,000/- (twenty million shillings), with very few questions asked.

They issue ended there although a court had found the owners of the demolished properties to be invaders and had ordered the demolition. We now need to find out what the status of the area is. Did these people move after bagging the 20/- million each? Or they went on and rebuilt in the same area? One remarkable observation, as far as suffering disaster is concerned, is that tenants were not paid although they were as much losers of property as were house owners, some of whom were absentee landlords.

When they complained to the government, they were referred to their landlords. The tenants were not paid, partly because there is a general bias against tenants, and partly because the response to the disaster had not been well-throughout to establish who had suffered what damage and was therefore entitled to what compensation. Then came the Mbagala disaster (April 29, 2009), when ammunitions in an army dump exploded causing several deaths and destroying million’s worthy of property.

Here the government decided to value each property that was completely or partially damaged to pay compensation accordingly so that the affected can restore their properties where they were. This time however, tenants were also included in the compensation although what to pay them became tricky since we are talking of property that is no longer in existence. Property owners of Mbagala collected their compensation and were supposed to apply this to reconstruct their houses for themselves.

It would be interesting for researcher to find out how the people of Mbagala fared after getting compensation.
Suggestions to use the opportunity to re-plan the area and resettle some of the residents from living next to the army dump could not be accepted as it was found prudent to let people restore their losses without having to move.

In the Gongo la Mboto army dump explosions disaster (February 16th 2011), once again many people (around 30) lost life, some 71 suffered injury and millions of shillings worthy of assets were destroyed. The government met the burial costs for those who died; paid compensation to their families and also paid medical bills for those who suffered injuries.

In terms of lost property, the government responded by evaluating all property for the loss suffered and commissioning a public corporation to build houses for owners instead of giving them money to do the construction themselves. Again, there was opportunity to re-plan this area into something better ordered. This route was not taken.

I am yet to establish whether tenants were considered or not. In the recent floods disaster, besides giving emergency
aid and shelter, the government wants to resettle some of those living in valleys particularly the Jangwani Valley. These residents have resisted resettlement for many years. Some years in the past some were given land in the Yombo area but many preferred to stay in the valley.

This is not so much because they are unreasonable, but because that was the land which they could get easily and was also well located from the point of view of livelihood earning opportunities. At first government officials said only property owners would be entitled to get plots for resettlement in the Mabwepande area. The tenants were told to look for other places to rent.

After inspecting work progress in the resettlement area, however, the President ordered that tenants be considered as well. This is likely to throw the whole system into disarray since officials had long prepared themselves not to deal with tenants. The resettlement of flood victims is partial since most of those who would be “eligible” cannot be accommodated on the land available at Mabwepande.

Worse still there are major complaints from those who claim to be legal owners of land in the Mabwepande area who are being displaced from their land without, or before they get, compensation. Some officials are hooting the alarm of “invaders” but there is no doubt that there are many Mabwepande land owners whose land has been taken without the completion of compulsory acquisition procedures, for the erection of tents to accommodate the incoming flood victims.

This is rather painful and pathetic for many of these people are poor household who had acquired land in one way or the other to meet their present and future needs. If the President does not intervene there will be a lot of “wailing and grinding of teeth” of those Mabwepande residents who are now poised to lose their land for the accommodation of those who are considered in the public eye to be invaders of hazardous areas.

Thus, even if there are invaders in Mabwepande, is it equitable to throw them off the land in order to accommodate other “invaders”? It is extremely important that government official open their eyes to the plight of the Mabwepande residents and dispense justice to them. Otherwise, there is little logic in “saving” valley dwellers, and in the process “kill” the non-valley dwellers whose land is being taken over.

What can be gauged from the four examples is that in each case the government took a different approach. There is need to have consistency in dealing with disasters. It is imperative that there is a system of identifying who the victims are without discrimination and to ensure that all are compensated or otherwise, assisted in a comparable manner. The principles of involuntary resettlements need to be followed where victims are forced to move involuntarily from their accommodation.

lusuggakironde@gmail.com

A  tribute  to  the  late  Former  ...

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Author: LUSUGA KIRONDE

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