Property rights compromised in Tanzania

By Maria John Mtambalike

The first time I met Juma Chinunga was in his family’s home, a broken down house with only one room for four people.

He told me that he used to own a four bedroom house but that it was taken away from him while he served a three month jail sentence. His relatives took the opportunity to sell the house without his consent, but when one of them disappeared the house was seized by someone else. In efforts to retrieve the property, Chinunga was faced with threats by land officers.

Despite possessing all authorizing certificates of ownership for the house, he is unable to retrieve his property as it has been sold. The court ordered that he has the right to open the case, but he has failed to do so as a result of encountering various difficulties with land officers.

Mr. Sekuba, a neighbour of Chinunga, confirms that Chinunga does in fact own the property, but unfortunately his relatives used the opportunity of his jail sentence to sell the house without informing him.

“I tried to help him but I too experienced difficulties which could endanger me, so now I stay away. The problem I see here is that Chinunga has no education so he failed to organize his ideas so as to fight for his right. The new owner of the house has enough money to buy the rights of owning the house,” he said.

Aisha Willium, the new owner of the house, says that she doesn’t know who Chinunga is as she bought the property from two people who introduced themselves as the owners of the house. She said that because she paid for the property, she will not give up the rights to the house.

Chinunga’s rights as a home owner have been violated by his relatives, and as a result he has been forced into a difficult situation. He admits that he isn’t completely aware of his rights and does not know where he can seek help to have them realized.

Mr. Shukuru Paulo, the in charge of St. Augustine University of Tanzania’s Legal and Human Rights Centre, said that Mr. Chinunga and others who experience the same problems should report to their local human rights centre so as to receive council and advice on their problem. If someone is aware of his or her rights, they should report the situation to the police station and follow all of the procedures to go to court. He also said that every human being has the right to own property and the right to protection of said property. He advised people to visit these centres in order to educate themselves on their rights rather than waiting for a problem or a violation to occur.

Maria is a student of Mass Communication at St. Augustine University of Tanzania, as well as a volunteer news presenter at Radio SAUT, the university’s on-campus student-run radio station. Maria’s dream is to become a journalist who focuses on human rights issues, especially those of women and children.

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