Tanzania Government urged to review land ownership laws

By Elias Mhegera – LAND ownership in Tanzania has fueled a lot of problems, to the extent that stakeholders want the laws with regard to ownership to be reviewed.

Rwanda - Support Project for the Strategic Plan for the TransforThe resolution from members of the Policy Forum breakfast debate on Friday last week is to call for a joint meeting between the civil societies, government officials, academia and partners in development (donors) in order to find a common solution to land ownership in Tanzania.

The topic for discussion was: The Village Land Act: Is it worth protecting? The debate came after two presentations from experts on land issues: one from Swagile Msananga, land officer from the Ministry of Land, who presented a paper on an Overview of the Tanzania Village Land Act.

Another presentation was from Yefred Myenzi, Executive Director of HakiArdhi, an NGO which deals with resolving land problems particularly protecting the powerless who spoke on: “The controversies around security of tenure in village land”. Of the members, Dr Honest Ngowi from Mzumbe University was a discussant.

It was revealed that land ownership problems in Tanzania have their grassroots in the colonial system, for instance during colonial rule there was discrimination in land ownership whereby rich people were favoured over others.

“It must be understood that after independence, land protection was increased, but the aim was to facilitate the Ujamaa village process under Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the father of this nation, but after his retirement from presidency things started to change,” said Msananga.

He admitted that after Ali Hasan Mwinyi assumed the presidency in 1985 many policies and regulations were reviewed, in order to concur with the liberalization policy that he wanted to execute in Tanzania.

He admits that with these changes, some people with bad motives have been trying to grab land intentionally or accidentally, but this is done in collaboration with certain unethical officials in the Ministry of Land.

He reminds everyone that the Village Land Councils were given more impetus through the Land Act No 5, of 1999 that was amended in 2004. For his part, Myenzi said that the three categories of land ownership in Tanzania do not give clear demarcations of who owns what.

“We have general land, village land and reserved land, but all these categories

depend entirely on the decision from the Central Government through the Ministry, hence the concept of protection is confusing,” remarked Myenzi.

He elaborated that whenever leaders need village land for any particular reason the villagers cannot resist; whenever the Government demands land from any big wig, that is when the concept of ‘protection’ applies.

Dr Ngowi said that he was surprised to see that people in Arumeru district were given land which they have been claiming from the Tanzania Peoples’ Defence Forces for a number of years, at this particular moment, when there was a by-election in Arumeru East.

“This is tantamount to being interpreted as meaning that land is used to facilitate certain political goals,” he remarked.

Another presenter, who works with the Canadian High Commission in Tanzania, Seleman Rehani, asked the Government to take into serious consideration gender issues, in the question of land ownership.