Dodoma — The family of former Prime Minister Rashidi Kawawa is embroiled in a dispute over a multi-million shilling property in Dodoma. At the centre of the dispute pitting Mzee Kawawa's children and his widow, Asina, is a house in the municipality's plush Kilimani area. Two of Mzee Kawawa's children involved in the row are MPs.
The wrangle came out in the open yesterday when the two sides bumped into one another at the property comprising a house formerly owned by the government and another, which is under construction at the same site.
Zainab accused Asina of unilaterally planning to rent out the house, which Mzee Kawawa's children want preserved and turned into a museum in remembrance of the former veteran politician who died on December 31, 2009.
Mr Kawawa served in various top government and party positions for many years before retiring. He was considered incorruptible, and commanded nationwide respect.
However, a furious Asina arrived shortly in the company of five people, including former Dar es Salaam Regional Crime Officer Abdallah Zombe, and declared that the property belonged to her, saying Mzee Kawawa's children had nothing to do with it.
She admitted planning to rent the house, saying Mzee Kawawa gave it to her in 2007, and added that she was the one putting up the other building on the plot.
"They have been living here for more than one and a half years...I now want to rent it," she declared before Mr Zombe led her to a waiting vehicle, which then sped away. Sources said Mr Zombe is Asina's close relative.
Zainab said she was speaking on the behalf of her siblings. Vita made a brief appearance and left before Asina arrived.
Zainab said Mzee Kawawa lived with his family in the house for several years, and that they opposed any attempt to change its use. "Our collective stand is that the house should be preserved and turned in to a museum," she said, adding that Mzee Kawawa bought the house from the government in 2007.
She said Mzee Kawawa in the same year used the house as collateral in applying for a Sh350 million loan from CRDB Bank, which decided to issue it in phases and had already released Sh74 million.
"We then decided to ask the bank to stop releasing more cash as we discussed how to repay the first instalment," Zainab said.
The debt has since risen to Sh102 million with interest, and Mzee Kawawa's family fear that the house could be auctioned by the bank, which is supposed to be paid Sh8 million every month.
Zainab said they were not ready to see their father's image being tarnished by the "ill-advised" actions of other people. She added: "I am ready to repay the loan, but under no circumstances should the use of the house be changed."
"As a family, we have no objection to her building another house on the plot, but we need her to respect this old house because it carries our father's history," said Zainab, who added that they would seek President Jakaya Kikwete's intervention if necessary.
"We want our stepmother to understand that we are not being driven by selfish interests...this is a matter of protecting our father's name...he lived a simple and honest life, and we are don't want his name to be embroiled in debt scandals after his death," she said.
The dispute attracted the attention of Dodoma District Commissioner John Tupa, who advised the two sides to settle the matter amicably.
Earlier, the Dodoma district police boss arrived at the scene, but left after a few minutes.