What you need to know:
The board claims the Lands State minister in 2015 and 2016 represented it, thus his turnaround points to dishonesty
Buganda Land Board (BLB), the kingdom’s entity responsible for land matters, is an “illegal” outfit that profits a clique to the exclusion of majority of Kabaka’s subjects, a central government minister has said.
Mr Sam Mayanja, the State Minister for Lands, said yesterday that Mengo, the administrative seat of Buganda, runs BLB as a private company to profiteer from public land by “illegally” charging for issuance of Kyapa Mungalo (titles on Kabaka’s land).
The charges by the minister, a Buganda critic, were unsurprisingly received with disdain by officials at Mengo who described him as “dishonest” and an “embarrassment”.
“BLB is an agent that acts for the Kabaka (Muwenda Mutebi). The Kabaka is the registered proprietor on all kingdom titles,” said Mr Dennis Bugaya, the BLB legal head and spokesperson.
He added: “Minister Mayanja in 2015 and 2016 represented BLB as one of its lawyers where he put up arguments that are a clear opposite of what he has just uttered. This points to dishonesty on his side.”
Buganda prime minister Charles Peter Mayiga launched Kyapa Mungalo in 2017 as a kingdom initiative to have people on Kabaka’a land obtain titles and tenure security.
However, Opposition by subjects and questions raised by central government officials about the authority of Mengo to issue land titles and concerns about what would happen when the 49-year leases expired, plunged the exercise into a headwind.
The kingdom charged between Shs200,000 to Shs1.2 million for each title depending on size, location and other attributes of the land, with many people signing up before the titling scheme ran out of steam.
In yesterday’s comments, Mr Mayanja, on a visit to Wakiso Zonal Land Office reopened after a week’s closure, and with 30 senior staff sacked and replaced at his initiative, read the riot act to Mengo officials, proclaiming that the days of fortune hunters among them are numbered with a Bill in the offing designed to alter the land holding in Buganda.
Whereas he provided no specifics, President Museveni, following a recommendation by the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire-led Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters, has repeatedly proposed to scrap the Mailo tenure only applicable in Buganda, describing it as “very bad and evil”.
Mengo rejects the categorisations, arguing that the current laws, if properly implemented, are sufficient to protect the interests of both land owners and squatters.
The government disagrees, and is mooting changes to existing laws to close what it says are gaps fertilising rampant evictions.
Mr Bugaya asked Mr Mayanja, named minister in the June reshuffle, to acclimatise himself with the workings of government and traditional institutions and learn to be bound by official decisions of his predecessors, including the government’s return of some of the titles to property and land the kingdom owns.
This is after the minister argued that the land vested in the Kabaka, which Mengo claims to transact, was unjustly vested in royals and their agents by the British colonialists who expropriated about 1 million ordinary Baganda in 1900.
He also said only Uganda Land Commission and district land boards have the power to recommend or issue land titles and Buganda’s lease and titling offers are not backed by law.
Mr Mayanja urged anyone in Buganda whose lease on Mailo land expires, to renew and convert it to freehold and stem evictions.
New team at Wakiso zonal land office
At Wakiso Zonal Lands Offices, the minister said he had worked to have several staff fired and replaced over allegations of corruption, inefficiency and fraud. The offices were closed on September 29 amid widespread public outcry and government revenue losses.
The new hires, pooled from other zonal land offices, include registrars, data entrants, the senior staff surveyor, valuers and cartographers. They signed an undertaking to be honest and diligent in discharging their duties while effectively using the digital land record system to eschew breaches and committed to turn Wakiso Zonal Land Office into a “centre of excellence”.
Mr Mayanja ordered the backlog left by the sacked staff to be cleared within 30 days from yesterday and that the fraudulent manual land data entry should be eliminated.
He banned brokers anywhere from accessing the national land information centres or being delegated to process land transactions, permitting such office access to professionals such lawyers and bank agents.
“In the mutual interest of government and land owners, unauthorised agents and land brokers are forthwith banned from conducting business at land registries throughout the country,” he said.
Commissioner Grace Kagolo, the in-charge of ICT at the Lands ministry, said the resumption of business at the land office meant a new chapter in which newcomers are expected to spruce up the old bad image. He warned against sharing computer passwords and user rights, and called for transparency.