(Published in Norwegian 25 Feb 2008)
By Erik Hagen
Norwatch visited Tanzania at the end of 2007 and published today a report [in Norwegian] on the agonising land conflict between Scancem’s Tanzanian subsidiary, Tanzania Portland Cement Company (TPCC), and the small-scale farmers.
The huge cement company Scancem has been carrying on a feud with the farmers for 16 years. Whereas the Norwegian company has a title deed for the area and the full support of the law courts in Tanzania, several of the families claim that they have had the right of ownership to these properties for generations. They will not move, and they deny that they ever sold their properties to the company.
None of the villagers with whom Norwatch spoke have written evidence that they own the land they live on. It is often exactly this that constitutes the problem in land conflicts in Tanzania. It is of little help that one has lived somewhere for generations and owns it on the basis of traditional customary law, when the other party has a deed on its hands. The claims of those with traditional hereditary right of ownership of a domicile are seldom accepted in the judicial system.
Police Destroyed the House
Thirty-three-year-old Faidini Hussein is one of the villagers Norwatch met. Faidini says her family has lived on the property since before the factory was built in the sixties.
“One morning eight policemen drove up to our house. They had brought pistols and machetes. They said they came on behalf of the company, and they destroyed our houses,” the Tanzanian woman told Norwatch.
The policemen tore down the iron sheet roof and kicked down the walls. Then they cut down the fruit trees. Finally, they used their knives to cut lots of small holes in the roofing sheets that had been tossed on the ground. According to Faidini Hussein, the family had never received any notice of eviction.
“We don’t understand why they did this, since we were born here, and we live here. It is unfair that they call us trespassers. So far we have not received compensation for our house or any promise that they will pay for what they have done,” she said.
According to the farmers, the company is supposed to have pulled down as many as a hundred houses.
Scancem’s Tanzanian subsidiary, TPCC, is the oldest and leading cement company in Tanzania. The company has control of 40% of the cement market in the country and has plans for an even greater market share. TPCC is going to invest a total of $100 million in expanding its production plant on the property. This huge investment will enable them to increase production to 1,200,000 tonnes cement yearly.
The company’s expansion of its property down towards the farmers’ village was carried out in the nineties. To obtain the land, the company entered into dialogue with those who were village leaders at that time. The farmers Norwatch has spoken with say they had not been informed that the village leaders sold off the territory they lived on behind their backs.
Government valuers, accompanied by armed police, then turned up at the farmers’ homes and said that the government had expropriated the land for the benefit of the company’s cement operations. The farmers say they felt forced to go to the company office to receive a small compensation for moving out.
But the government never took over the farmers’ land, as had been claimed.
“When the police in Tanzania turns up at your house and delivers that kind of message, it is not customary to protest loudly. Especially, uneducated farmers are not qualified to question such an order,” Mabere Marando, the farmers’ lawyer (photo on the right), told Norwatch.
Marando believes that the company’s title deed is invalid and wonders what happened when the village leaders entered into the agreement with the company. According to the lawyer, a property buyer does not have the possibility of negotiating a purchase with a village leader if the property at the time is being utilised by village residents
The lawyer’s protests have so far been of little help to the farmers in the judicial system. A verdict in the High Court in Dar es Salaam fully supports the company in that the property belongs to TPCC. In addition to being found guilty of being illegal trespassers, the farmers were ordered to pay the company 100 million Tanzanian shilling in compensation for damage to the property. The defence was also ordered to pay costs.
In the Right
“When we ask them to move, we are met with stones. We therefore started legal proceedings in 2003, which have continued up until the present,” Klaus Hvassing, manager of TPCC, said.
Furthermore, he said, everyone who has lived on the land has received compensation. “So far, not a single judgement has been pronounced in the company’s disfavour. There is absolutely no doubt that this property belongs to us,” Hvassing told Norwatch.
“We have collaborated with the government of Tanzania about this, for we do not wish to do anything that is contrary to their interests. If we were to compensate the trespassers, we would be compensating people who commit an illegal act. The authorities would after all not want that. The authorities had budget problems in solving this. We have therefore donated a considerable sum to the government so that they can purchase an area for the illegal occupants. On the basis of this, they have been allotted new land. We did this as a part of our CSR program. It is better to assist the authorities in solving the problem than to award those who commit an illegal act,” Hvassing said.
Scancem’s proposed solution has nevertheless not prevented the case from rolling on in the judicial system. On Monday, 25 February, the two parties will present their versions of the conflict for the last time, in Tanzania’s highest court.
Many Similar Conflicts
Ingunn Ikdahl, PhD Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Law at the University of Oslo and an expert on land conflicts in Tanzania, says this form of conflict is not unusual in the East African country. This kind of case was particularly much debated at the beginning of the nineties – that is, in the same period in which TPCC was working to attain ownership of the territory.
“To register ownership of a property, one has to go through a long series of different public authorities. If common law-based rights are to be registered to obtain clearer status, the village has to fill out about 50 different forms. It has often been easier for big investors to obtain approval for their interests and property demands than for common people,” she said.
FACTS: Scancem in Tanzania
- Scancem is a Norwegian company with headquarters in Oslo.
- In 1999 Scancem was bought by the German company Heidelberg Cement. The company’s African activities are nonetheless controlled from Norway.
- Owns 69% of Tanzania Portland Cement Company (TPCC) outside Dar es Salaam. The company is also referred to as Twiga Cement. Twiga means giraffe in Swahili.
- TPCC controls about 40% of the market in Tanzania but plans for an even greater market share after they develop the factory.
- TPCC built its factory on Wazo Hill in the 1960s.
- In addition to Tanzania, Scancem has operations in Ghana, Benin, Gabon, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
FACTS: The Land Conflict with the Farmers
1965: The cement factory starts up on Wazo Hill, outside Dar es Salaam.
The 1980s: The cement factory plans expansion of its territory, down towards Boko village.
1992: Scancem buys into TPCC, first with 13% of the shares. The first map of the properties in the area is drawn. During the following years Scancem was to buy up more of the companies, up to today’s 69%.
1 January 1993: The company received the title deed for properties nos. 1, 4, and 7. The deed is valid until the year 2092. Property 1 is inhabited by people from Boko village.
2003: The company institutes legal proceedings against the inhabitants of the properties.
26 October 2006: The High Court in Dar es Salaam finds the company to be the legitimate owner of property 1 and declares the inhabitants to be trespassers.
31 January 2007: The inhabitants have been ordered to leave the area pending the result of the appeal. They carry out several demonstrations, some of which end up in full confrontation with the Tanzanian police’s Field Force Unit.
December 2007: A law court in Dar es Salaam says that the residents may stay on the land until the appeal about the ownership question is finally tried.
25 February 2008: The case will be heard in Tanzania’s highest court, Court of Appeal of Tanzania. One day has been reserved.