KAMPALA – The owners of Temangalo Tea Estate have written an open letter to President Yoweri Museveni over their land that was sold to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) by businessman Amos Nzeyi and his associates.
In the letter published in dailies on Wednesday as Mr Museveni led government officials in anti corruption protest walk, the owners ask the President to intervene in the matter so that they get justice and fairness they deserve.
“As former Ugandans, born and raised in Kampala, we seek your intervention in the cause of justice and fairness, during this anti-corruption week, to readdress an injustice with regard to our land, a 366 acre estate in Temangalo, Busiro County,” says Nazim Moosa, one of the tea estate owners.
“Last week, the NSSF-Temangalo land scandal of 2008 was listed as one of the seven biggest corruption scandals in the history of Uganda. Interestingly enough, Sir, during that scandal, no one asked the question as to how this 366 acre parcel of land was acquired by Mr. Amos Nzeyi in the first place when it was under the direct authority of the Custodian Board? Nor was the NSSF, a big Corporation with a team of accountants and lawyers, held to account for what due diligence it might have done before acquiring this property?” he wonders.
Currently, NSSF has put out bid tenders to commence work on the property following a recent court victory.
“Is this befitting a Corporation that handles workers money for investment purposes, and knows full well of the fraud and mishandling of this property, yet decides to proceed on their investment in this land that they know does not belong to them?,” Mr Moosa wondered.
He says the judgment that was delivered last week on Temangalo land was erroneous and unjust since the judge addressed the time barred issue, on a technicality, yet ignored completely the merit based evidence of fraud.
“Your Excellency – the facts in this matter are very simple and clear. In 1993 we obtained repossession papers from the Custodian Board to the Tamangalo Estate. We have the original title and company documents to show evidence of ownership. The title clears shows our registered leasehold interest in the property, with the lease period running to 2003, and a renewal option of a further 50 years. Searches at the Wakiso Land office still show our interest registered in the land,” he says.
“Our presence before the Land Commission Inquiry in August 2018 gave us a platform to be heard. Some stark revelations were made by witnesses brought before the Commission. It was evident that fraud was perpetrated and the existence of our lease was ignored by those who were complicit in this fraud. We are grateful to the Parliamentary Committee for letting us be heard in August 2019. It has been amply demonstrated that the ownership transfers of Temangalo, by all the “so called” owners were done outside the proper authorization of the Custodian Board, under whose authority this property was managed.”
Mr Moosa further cried out that inspite of the overwhelming evidence of ownership, they have produced to have their land back, it has been a struggle of 26 years and counting to get any form of justice in the matter.
“Your Excellency: When are we going to see justice done? We came back to claim what was rightly ours, at the invitation of the Ugandan Government. We produced the right documents and were recognized as being the legitimate owners of this property, yet we never achieved physical possession nor were we recognized for any compensation. Is this what truth and justice is, in Uganda? How much more evidence do we have to produce? Please Sir, we seek justice and fairness from you.”
Facts on Temangalo land, according to Mr Moosa;
• FACT 1: In 1993 we returned to Uganda, noting that the Uganda Government wanted former Ugandans to return, repatriate their properties and start rehabilitation. We applied for repossession at the Custodian Board.
• FACT 2 Documents reviewed by the Custodain Board included the following: Original Certificate of Title (that was in our possession), showing Tamagalo Tea Estate Limited as the registered owner of the property with a Registered Leasehold Interest. The lease period was running to 2003, and with the addition of the suspension period of 22years, the actual expiry is 2025. There is an option for renewal for another 50 years.
• FACT 3 Other documents review included: Company verification showing Tamangalo as a registered Ugandan company since 1944 with Annual Returns filed up to 1971. Verification of Citizenship of the owners was authenticated as Ugandans.
• FACT 4 Upon their examination and verification of the above noted documents that we presented as proof of our claim, the Custodian Board recognised Tamangalo as the original registered proprietor of the property on April 28 1993. We had got possession.
• FACT 5 In June 1993, the Custodian Board sent a letter to the occupant, Mr. Amos Nzeyi, advising him that the property had been returned to Tamangalo and that he was to negotiate with Tamangalo in all matters regarding the occupation of the premises.
• FACT 6 In June 1993, our Counsel wrote to Mr. Nzeyi advisng him of the return of the Estate to us and of our failure to trace his title in the Registry of titles.
TAMANGALO TEA ESTATE LIMITED:
• FACT 7 In June 1993 our Counsel wrote to the Chief Registrar of Titles, noting that our Title had never been cancelled, but the originl copy had been tampered with. Several anomalies were pointedf out, including a forged signature, and missing white sheets in the mailo office that had been removed from its folder. An investigation was requested.
• FACT 8 And so began our journey to reclaim our land in 1993. If the Custodain Board, an arm of the Government, recognised us as the rightful owners, and returned the property to us, why is it, that after 26 years, we do not have physical possession? From mediation attempts, to seeking justice through the Courts, to seeking readdress through Governmental agencies and leadership, we sought support, intervention and guidance in the interest of justice and fairness. We were simply ignored.
• FACT 9 In August 2018 we were finally given a platform at the Land Commission Inquiry to air our complain and also at the Parliamentary SubCommittee hearings in August 2019.
• FACT 10 Both these public hearings carried extensive media coverage, and Ugandans came to know of the fraud, deception and lies that have enveloped the ownership of Tamangalo since prior to 1993. The property had changed hands, amongst others, from Mr. Sekulima to Mr. Mawanda to Mr. Nzeyi to the NSSF. Sworn testimonies before the Commission hearings are a matter of public record and available on the internet.
• FACT 11 The Managing Directoir of the NSSF admitted that they did not do enough due diligince in going into the “historical perspective “ of the Temangalo Land ownership. Had they done this, they would identified a registered lease on the property.
• FACT 12 Mr. Amos Nzeyi denied knowedge of our claim until 2016. This statement was not true. As noted above, we communicated with him in 1993 and again through the Courts. Mr. Nzeyi denied knowledge of the existence of a running lease on the property and said these questions would best be answered by Mawanda, from whom he bought the land, and from his lawyers, Sebalu Lule who did the due diligence when he bought the land. He noted that he had bought the land in smaller plots under several sales agreements.
• FACT 13 Ms Sarah Kulata, former commissioner of land registration, admitted that she handled the transfers and sub-divsion of the land for Mr. Nzeyi, but revealed that important documents were missing. She further noted that the trasnfer of the land to Mr. Sekulima had raised a red flag becasue of the validity of the letters of probate. The transfer was erroneous if made without proper letters of probate and she also admitted that there was a running lease on the property when Mr. Mawanda took over the land, and that the aplication for re-entry could not be located. She admitted to also not doing any due diligence before issuing a specail title to Mr. Nzeyi in 1988.
• FACT 14 Mr. Abbas Mawanda revealed that he had sold the land as a single parcel to Mr. Nzeyi, under one sale agreement, which completely contradicted Mr. Nzeyi’s testimony.
• FACT 15 Mr. Opio, Acting Commissioner in charge of Land Registration testified that the disputed land was under a mailo register, and a lease did exist, however, the documents had disappeared. Later he also testified that a re-entry was made In October 1988 and noted in the register book but the original copy of the entry could not be found, and that the noting of the entry was null and void as proper procedures were not followed anyway. We would like to note that the focus of this fraud and corruption that was revealed is centred on the following facts:
• FACT 16 the existence of a registered lease on the property was willfully and knowlingly overlooked. Documents have disappeared from files, proper due diligence was not conducted, and proper entry records were not done or were made to disappear.
However, the overriding fact remains as follows:
• FACT 17 This property was under the aegis of the Departed Asians’ Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) until 1993 when it was returned ito us.
How did the previous owners (Sekulima/Mawanda/Nzeyi/NSSF) acquire possession when it it was under the watch of the DAPCB? Did they follow procedures to ensure that their ownership was legal, notwithstanding, of course, all the back handed fraud that was transpiring?
• FACT 18 In our recent Court case, we had submitted evidence of fraud and mishadling of this property, but the judge did not even mention or rule on that matter, and summarily dismissed the whole suit based on a time barr technicality that had only been raised by the NSSF. What about the rest of the case? Why was it not addressed by him? What justification did he have to reject our whole case?
• FACT 19 How can the NSSF ask for bid tenders on this property when it knows full well that its failure to do its due diligence resulted in its overlooking the leasehold interest? And now that it has been aware of this wilful negilgence, how can it, in good consious proceed with development?