UGANDA, Wakiso | Real Muloodi News | Masaka Children’s Park in Masaka City, is embroiled in a land dispute between the City Council and the family of the late Francis Kakumba, who both hold titles to the land.
The park, measuring 2.07 acres, was leased by Masaka Town Council in 1961, while Kakumba’s family obtained a freehold title to plots 58-72 on Elgin Road in 2011, measuring 0.85 hectares.
The land in question, adjacent to Masaka Secondary School’s main gate, is presently occupied by more than 1,000 vendors who were relocated to the children’s park to pave the way for the construction of the new Masaka Central Market, which is yet to be occupied.
Masaka Children’s Park has two land titles, one issued in 1961 by Masaka Town Council, and the other issued in 2011 to the family of the late Francis Kakumba.
The management of public land has been brought into question by stakeholders.
Discrepancies over Land Titles
Vincent Kasumba Zziwa, the president of Masaka City Development Forum, has a copy of the 1961 title. To his dismay, he discovered that the late Kakumba’s family had also secured a title for the same land in 2011.
He blames technocrats, who he believes have failed to provide a clear inventory of all city properties to stakeholders. This lack of clear communication has allowed fraudulent land transactions and the sale of council properties.
“Those technocrats have adamantly refused to provide an inventory of all city properties to stakeholders such that we know the public properties and those which are not,” he said.
Mr Zziwa accuses some technocrats and top-ranking politicians in Masaka of being involved in fraudulent land transactions and the sale of council properties.
“Some technocrats have occupied the city council properties like Kkumbu Estate and they are replacing the old structures with new apartments, an indication of being part of a syndicate of land grabbers in Masaka City,” he said.
Illegal Sales of Public Properties
Social rights activist and senior citizen in Masaka City, Mr Swaibu Sula Mbaaya Makumbi, states that the children’s park is one of many public properties that were illegally sold off to private developers.
He has invited the Minister of Lands to camp in Masaka and exhaustively investigate or order an audit into public property transactions, but no action has been taken in the last four years.
“On several occasions, we have invited the minister of Lands to camp in Masaka and exhaustively investigate or order an audit into public property transactions, but no action has been taken in the last four years,” he said.
Mr Makumbi wants the officer at Masaka Zonal land office who issued the 2011 title arrested and calls for their resignation in the public interest.
“In Masaka City, we don’t have public servants but mere salary earners who are occupying offices to aid theft and fraudulent transactions on public properties,” Mr Makumbi said.
A Battle for Ownership
Alice Nannungi, the Chairperson of Masaka City Building Control Committee, confirms that someone claiming to be a member of the late Kakumba’s family approached her seeking a permit to fence off the Children’s Park to pave way for its redevelopment last month.
The family provided a land title issued in 2011, but the city council had an equal claim to the same land, so they turned away the woman seeking a holding permit.
“Kakumba’s family proved ownership with a land title issued in 2011, but when I consulted with the city council they equally had another title and that is why they turned away the woman who wanted a holding permit,” she said.
However, Kakumba’s family members have refused to comment on the matter.
Efforts to reach officials at Masaka Zonal Land Office proved futile, as the officials instead referred to the Ministry of Lands spokesperson, Denis Obbo. However, by press time, Mr Obbo had not responded to repeated phone calls.
The Law on Conflicting Land Titles
According to Sam Ssekyewa, a Masaka-based lawyer, the law states that where there are two title deeds in respect of the same land, the first one issued is the one protected by law.
“The law envisaged such a scenario, and the Commissioner of Land Registry under Section 91 of the Land (Amendment ) Act, 2004 has the powers to cancel the second title for having been issued in error,” he says.
Mr Ssekyewa stated that some people in land offices do not come on the ground and usually base their decisions on the information in the system to issue new titles.
“Sometimes they take a long time to update their data and when they issue a certificate that overlaps another certificate that is when they realise that the second one was issued in error,” he said.
20 Land Titles for Public Properties Missing
Meanwhile, Masaka City has reported 20 missing land titles for properties under its ownership, including the newly constructed Masaka Central Market, Kkumbu Playground, and Masaka Regional Referral Hospital mortuary.
Other affected properties include Katwe Market, Masaka Bus Park, and the mayor’s chambers, among others.
According to Masaka City Mayor, Florence Namayanja, some private developers have used these fraudulently acquired public lands as collateral to secure bank loans.
In 2015, the High Court in Masaka issued an injunction suspending the district land board from conducting transactions on land and properties owned or managed by the council following an application by some council authorities to halt continued irregular sales and allocation of public land.
READ MORE LIKE THIS:
Developers Continue Construction in Green Belts Despite Authorities’ Orders