By Edward Qorro,
Ms Juliana Mkese woke up to the threatening sound of a bulldozer pulling down part of the fence of their mansion in the plush suburb of Mbezi Beach in Dar es Salaam.
She went to find out what was happening. Juliana was shocked to find a bulldozer had demolished a good part of her house. It was just a matter of time before the bulldozer brought the whole house down.
“This was an irregular demolition exercise because we were not told about it in advance… even the signboard in the area shows that our house was far from the Indian ocean reserve,” Juliana claims.
On Tuesday, July 10, last year, Juliana and some of her neighbours were dealt a major blow when an impromptu demolition exercise got underway around their neighbourhood on that morning.
Juliana still has fresh memories of the exercise she deems brutal. Majembe Auction Mart supervised the demolition under the watchful eye of the police who were armed to the teeth. They had hand grenades, sub-machine guns and a water cannon truck ready for any eventuality.
Such are the predicaments that some Dar es Salaam residents face in the struggle to protect their homes for which they spend a fortune to construct.There are also the agonies of unsuspecting land buyers, who buy plots, oblivious of their legitimacy and end up being evicted from the plots, sometimes without compensation.
According to Juliana, she and her husband bought the four-acre piece of land, which is a kilometre away from the Beachcomber Hotel, from the Kinondoni municipality. They were availed all the important documents pertaining to the sale and legitimacy of the land.
“We spent a lot of money to buy the plot but it is puzzling to hear that we had built on the government resources,” says Juliana.
A senior lecturer from the department of quantity surveying at Ardhi University, Dr Nicholas Makoba says it is desperation that drags people into buying unauthorised plots, and that it becomes too late once the deal backfires.
“When looking for plots, some people are usually not aware if the land sales are genuine or not. As a result they find themselves being given eviction and demolition notices,” says the quantity surveyor.
Alternatively, Dr Makoba says it is wise for such buyers to always verify the authenticity of the plots with the municipalities.
The senior lecturer warns that a good part of Dar es Salaam is neither planned nor surveyed and that it should be made a common practice for people to visit municipalities to verify the authenticity of their plots.
In a city that is trying to cope with an ever-soaring population, owning a legitimate piece of land still proves to be a nightmare.
In the recent past, some Dar es Salaam residents have found themselves in wrangles with the authorities over settlements.
A recent case was the demolition of buildings and other human settlements along Bagamoyo road in mid-August. This commenced from the stretch that starts from Kawe-Bondeni, all the way to Tegeta. The aim was to pave way for the laying down of a water pipe by the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (Dawasa).
In the event, the popular Samaki Samaki restaurant in Makonde area along Bagamoyo road was demolished. During the exercise, the grass thatched nightspot caught fire following an electric fault.
The demolition also affected Mr John Lyimo, a butchery proprietor at Mbezi Goig area, who stood watching as his office was being pulled down.
“It was a rather painful exercise to watch because when we rented these outlets, we were assured that they were far from the road reserve as you can see,” he says pointing to the newly constructed double lane tarmac road.
Mr Lyimo and his fellow occupants were not aware that their establishments were sitting on an area soon to be used by Dawasa in laying down the water pipe.
“We were all shocked to hear the public announcement from Kinondoni municipality that we were supposed to vacate the area,” he says.
According to Mr Lyimo, they are yet to be compensated, pending directives from the municipality.
Then followed the saga, which stole the headlines when residents of Kurasini in Mivinjeni area were told to leave the place to give way for expansion of the Dar es Salaam port.
Television footages showed women and children carrying their belongings as bulldozers awaited the order to pull down their homes.
The residents’ demonstrations did not help as the government maintained its stance to relocate them to Kimbiji area where it had allocated plots for them.
“The government has already surveyed the area and every family has been allocated a plot. Each family will have to contribute some amount of money to get a plot,” noted the minister for Land, Housing and Human Settlements Development, Prof Anna Tibaijuka in August.
Even though they were compensated, some of the residents are still up in arms with the government for evicting them, as Ms Florah Kobelo puts it.
“We have seen our children grow here. Why are we told to leave this place when we acquired it legitimately,” queries the irked evictee.
The Chairman of the National Architects and Quantity Surveyors, Engelbert Lipambila says it has become common to see unsurveyed areas being invaded by unsuspecting buyers, with the hopes of building houses.
This, according to the quantity surveyor, comes with a price as the buyers are forced to pay the heavy price of seeing their structures pulled down when they have invested heavily on the buildings.
“Some buyers fall prey to con men who either sell or lease out unsurveyed lands. Building on this land is risky,” he warns.
Echoing engineer Makoba’s sentiments, Mr Lipambila says people need to have their eyes open when engaging in land purchasing deals.
“You need to be extra careful when buying a plot. You need to verify its authenticity from the ministry of Lands before fully acquiring it,” says Lipambila.
He suggests that when buying a piece of land, one needs to beware of the informal settlement areas, which are common in Dar es Salaam.
The quantity surveyor gives an example of the popular informal settlement areas as being Manzese and Keko. He says it is also wise to have in mind open areas, surveyed areas and also if the land or plot falls under the category of informal space, lest you risk having your building pulled down.
“At times people buy such plots out of desperation, but it is always advisable to verify the legitimacy of the plots,” he advises.