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Commissioners accuse Swazuri of making decisions alone

They came into office early 2013 after a protracted and contentious delay, with government officials then said to lack goodwill, but the emerging picture of affairs at the National Land Commission has disappointed MPs.

The ongoing scrutiny of a petition for the removal of Prof Muhammad Swazuri as chairman of the National Land Commission has exposed the troubles at the institution among whose roles was the correction of historical injustices on land.

On Monday, five commissioners disowned decisions signed off by Prof Swazuri, with one saying that it was common for the chairman to carry out investigations and make decisions by himself.

DYSFUNCTIONAL COMMISSION

This despite the clear provisions in the law, which they also cited, that there has to be a minimum of three commissioners when a dispute is being handled and five for a decision to be made by the commission.

The picture that has emerged is that of a dysfunctional commission where decisions are made without proper consultations.

The Lands Committee has been concerned that decisions are often made without the requisite quorum and outside of the law and set procedures.

Mbeere South MP Mutava Musyimi expressed his frustrations at the commission, whose setting up he helped oversee as chairman of the committee that dealt with land matters in the last Parliament.

LAND JUSTICE

“The reason we got the new Constitution with a chapter on land was because we had issues with Ardhi House and so that we can see delivery of justice to our people,” he said.

He added, “It pains us, those who saw clashes since 1991, who wanted a Constitution with strong provisions on land issues, to see people that we have given a job abusing that responsibility and authority. It is very disappointing.”

Mr Musyimi was particularly incensed about the manner in which the commission has handled a dispute over the 42,000-acre Mwea Settlement Scheme, where he said title deeds have been issued to people who don’t even know where the scheme is.

Despite using traditional methods of dealing with land disputes, as allowed in the Constitution and the National Land Commission Act, the problem refuses to go away, and the dispute is in court again.

INDEPENDENT DECISIONS

Commissioners have however distanced themselves from the bad going on at NLC.

“Practices of probably individuals should not be taken to be the practice of the whole commission. So if there is any individual who takes decisions independently, without any involvement of any other commissioners, then it should be treated as an independent decision and not a commission decision,” said Silas Kinoti, one of the commissioners.

Abdulkadir Khalif, another member of the commission, admitted that all has not been going well at the commission and that the commissioners had been lax.

He said that Prof Swazuri often made decisions single-handedly and some of these were rejected by the rest of the commission but were implemented anyway.

“The chairman is a very busy person and sometimes we have budgetary constraints and we cannot accompany him everywhere. Because of that, he will do a lot of things on his own. Sometimes he will go with one or two of us but sometimes he does it on his own,” Mr Khalif said.

MALICE

He said the expectation is usually that the chairman’s decision will be discussed by the commission proper.

“Does that happen always? No. Should it happen? Yes,” he added.

“We never even imagined that such a thing could happen. We waited too long. Tuliwachilia tu kidogo (We just let it go for a little while),” he added.

On his part, Prof Swazuri told the committee last week that the commission has handled land compensation for a myriad of government projects.

“So far, we have not had any problems apart from the normal problems of people saying that it is taking too long, handling disputes…” he said.

“The reason for this petition is just a question of malice,” he said.

He has since obtained a court order barring the committee from proceeding with the matter.

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