To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

April 21, 2008

Norwegian cement company wants to evict 3,000 Tanzanian farmers

A Norwegian cement company wants to evict an estimated 3,000 Tanzanian farmers it says are trespassing on its land. The farmers say their families have lived there for generations, and that they were not consulted when the land was sold. After 16 years of conflict Tanzania's highest court is due to reach a verdict soon.

One day in the early 1990s, eight policemen with guns and machetes arrived unexpectedly at the house of Fadini Hussein, a Tanzanian farmer who lives in the village Boko, 25km north of capital Dar es Salaam. The police tore down her house's corrugated iron roof. They kicked down its walls. They cut slivers in the roof sheets that had been torn down, after first turning the machetes on Hussein's fruit trees.

The incident is recounted in a report published Feb. 23 by Norwatch, a corporate ethics news service published by the Norwegian NGO Framtiden i våre hender. The report alleges that the police told Hussein and the owners of up to 100 other houses they destroyed that they were expropriating the land for the government on behalf of Tanzania Portland Cement Company (TPCC), which has a nearby factory.

TPCC, also known as Twiga Cement, was founded in 1965, and today controls about 40 percent of the Tanzanian cement market. It is controlled by Norwegian company Scancem, with headquarters in the small town Lysaker just outside of Oslo, Norway. In 1999 Scancem was bought by the German Heidelberg Cement Group, but its Africa operations continue to be directed from Scancem's offices in Norway.

Scancem first invested in TPCC in 1992, when it held a minority stake. In 1993 TPCC acquired title deeds to several plots of land adjacent to their original factory property. Some areas were inhabited by villagers from Boko with customary rights to the land, including the disputed plot. According to sources which Norwatch has spoken to, about 3,000 people live on the plot today.

In 2003 TPCC decided to sue the plot's inhabitants, insisting that the original occupants had been compensated and that there was no reason for them to be there. In October 2006 a High Court in Dar es Salaam labelled them illegal trespassers, concluding that they were either new arrivals, or villagers that had received compensation but had returned. The court also ruled that they would have to pay TPCC more than 80,000 dollars for damage to the property.

In January 2007 the farmers went to the Tanzanian Court of Appeal. However, in March 2007 a judge decided that the villagers' houses should be torn down immediately, and that their occupants would receive compensation later if they won the appeal. Following the ruling riot police armed with tear gas clashed with villagers several times in an attempt to force them off the property, according to Tanzanian newspaper The Guardian.

After a riot police raid in May 2007 several women from Boko protested in front of the presidential compound in Dar es Salaam, and in September 2007 villagers armed with sticks and stones stormed a function being held by TPCC representatives. In December 2007 a court decided that the villagers could remain on the land until the appeal has been considered.

At the hearing in the Court of Appeal on Feb. 26 this year, TPCC's lawyers argued that the case should be thrown out of court as one of the occupant's central appeal documents was marked with an incorrect date. The court invited the occupant's lawyer Mabere Marando to submit an application for a new hearing. Mabere, who says that the date mistake was made by the High Court and not the defence, expects the court to consider the new application in April or May.

Marando insists that his clients never transferred their rights to the land in the first place. Instead, he says that TPCC negotiated with village leaders who received money in return for transferring the lands without consulting with the farmers themselves.

"I don't want to use the word corruption, but we think the cement company used means which are not very lawful. We think they simply bought off village leaders without directly negotiating with our clients. Of about 900 clients only four of them are proven to have accepted compensation, and they were pushed to accept that compensation by police," Marando told IPS.

According to court documents, one of those compensated received 3,000 Tanzanian shillings (2.40 dollars at today's currency rate) for the vegetables she lost.

TPCC's Norwegian managing director Klaus Hvassing, a Tanzania-based former head of parent organisation Scancem, confirms that TPCC did acquire the disputed land in 1993, but says that TPCC had nothing to do with payment of compensation as the property was expropriated by the government.

"This is an issue which I know nothing about because it would have occurred between the Tanzanian state, which expropriated the land, and whoever they negotiated with," he said.

Hvassing says that TPCC wants to strengthen the government by cooperating with it, adding that the company has donated funds to the cash-strapped government to help resettle the occupants rather than encouraging illegal trespassing by paying them directly.

However, Marando alleges that the state never expropriated the land. He says that the police that told this to the farmers were in fact working for TPCC. "The police have always been beating the farmers left and right -- they even did this again a few weeks ago. Our case is that the police have been working for the company and not for the government," he claimed.

Hvassing declined to comment on Marando's allegations.

"TPCC should reconsider its position," said Arild Hermstad of Framtiden i våre hender, Norwatch's parent NGO. "People may be willing to move, but one has to have good compensation mechanisms and one has to behave responsibly from the very beginning. Otherwise you often end up with conflicts such as this."

In Tanzania a British-inspired legal system for properties co-exists alongside a traditional system of customary land rights. In practice those claiming traditional rights to land often face difficulties in disputes because they tend to lack any official papers, as do the occupants in Boko.

"Only Norway and a few other countries in the world have good property rules. If you want to be socially responsible in a country like Tanzania you can't just align yourself with authorities as TPCC is doing. You also have to establish a good dialogue with the people that you want to move, and we think it is clear that TPCC have not done that in this instance," Hermstad commented.

For his part Hvassing, quoted in the Norwatch report, says that "everybody on the property was compensated. Some moved and some did not. We decided to sue those remaining as we cannot expel them from the land ourselves. When we ask them to leave they attack us with rocks, and so we began the legal process in 2003."

In the proceedings prior to the High Court judgement in 2006, Hvassing told the court that if TPCC lost the case it would cancel planned investments in Tanzania worth 100 million dollars. "This will have a negative impact on the country's economy and development and government revenue," he warned the court. This argument has also been repeated by the company in the Tanzanian press.

"I find it frightening that the issue is argued in this way. They are threatening to punish the Tanzanian state for not taking more advantage of their own citizens," Hermstad said. "There are many indications that TPCC has crossed a line in this case."

However, Hvassing points out that so far TPCC has not received any unfavourable court rulings. He refers to the 2006 High Court ruling, insisting that "there are no farmers on the land. There are illegal trespassers on the land, which is what the court has designated them. There is no doubt whatsoever that this property belongs to us."

IPS

Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by Ourblogtemplates.com

Back to TOP