By Kurgat Marindany
Property dealers in Kajiado are moving out in hordes following the county government’s order in late 2017 criminalising land subdivision.
Although Governor Joseph ole Lenku made several attempts to sweeten his earlier order banning land subdivision by implying it meant to protect those who have bought the property, dealers now say they are losing billions of shillings after buyers boycotted Kajiado.
“Whether you have a quarter of an acre or a thousand acres, you have a right to own that land as long as it is being used for what it was meant for,” Lenku said on December 5, 2017.
“What we are against are cartels that buy land and fraudulently change its usage,” he added then.
Tycoon land dealer and property seller, Simon Ntasikoi Nonkanas alias Pajero, has faulted rigid laws introduced by the county government on the management of land.
“Land buying and selling business went down in 2014 during the era of former governor David Nkedianye, but after Lenku coming in, he introduced more restrictions, a move investors felt was aimed at pushing them out,” noted Pajero.
He said thousands of people business, including brokers who depended entirely on the proceeds of the land sale, have now closed shop on Kajiado after further allegedly offensive restrictions.
“Processing land documents for a buyer of a land that has changed hands severally is extremely hard in Kajiado given the fact that the department concerned is demanding mutations that have been surpassed by many others instead of the current documents,” claimed Pajero.
The businessman said he used to buy large tracts of land which he would later sell to Sacco groups for their members.
“Such savings organisations buy 50 to 100 acres and subdivide them into ¼ or even less that are sold at between Sh200, 000 and Sh500, 000. Small earners could easily afford the same by taking loans,” said the businessman.
He said the county administration brought new laws governing land trade and its use allegedly without involving all the stakeholders.
Another businessman and broker, Kenneth Meeli, is a bitter man who feels the new laws governing the management of land resources are meant to make poorer the people of Kajiado.
“We are the most disenfranchised group of people in this county given the fact that we entirely depended on what property owners sell out to customers. We have been condemned by this county government. As brokers, our business is to look for buyers and get our 5 per cent of the money changing hands,” lamented Meeli.
Meeli said investing in a property in a county with lots of restriction reduces the value of the land.
He says most dealers and investors have moved to Kiambu and Machakos where they can invest on land and subdivide them without much restriction as is experienced in Kajiado.
“In Kajiado, getting an affordable property for low earners, one has to travel more than 20 km into the interior while in Kiambu and Machakos one has to drive less than 5 km,” explained Meeli.
He said the only challenge that has come to hound Kajiado brokers is the fact that they do not understand the history of land property in other counties.
“We strongly believe in brokering clean property that has no previous cases and tussles of ownership for our customers. We do not want to be branded as thieves,” said Meeli.
But county lands minister, Hamilton Parseina, says the new laws are meant to cushion people who have bought land.
On his part, Lenku says those intending to buy land in areas where cattle rearing is taking place, the new land buyer must also keep livestock like the local people.
“We do not want people taking land meant for livestock, subdividing that land and putting it for a different use,” Lenku is on record making that statement.
He insists that his government is determined to protect genuine landowners from cartels that are selling agricultural lands for residential use.
Parseina says the county has now put in place a Spatial Plan for land use in the county.
“The Spatial plan clearly spells out how land is supposed to be used in the county,” he explained.
“We have land meant for agriculture, industry, ranching and human settlement. That demarcation ought to be respected,” insists Parseina.
During Nkedianye’s tenure and during the realization of the devolution, many investors flocked Kajiado, but the then county CEO told them the regional county has no free land to give them to set up industries.
In the process, many of them crossed over to Machakos where they were handsomely received and given the land. Revenue collection from established factories cannot be equated with Kajiado by any given standards.
The youths in Machakos are employed in newly established industrial installations at the same time the county is reaping from foreign and local investors.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration supports the Big Four agenda, which includes the support of local and foreign investors so as to help the youth to get employment as well as provide revenues to the country.
A research report by the United State of America – based organisation, Tall Pines Conservancy, entitled: “Why Preserve Farmland” says; “saving farmland is an investment in community infrastructure and economic development. It supports local government budgets and the ability to create wealth locally. In addition, distinctive agricultural landscapes are often magnets for tourism.”
The introduction of taxation on freehold land property with titles is another issue that has caused an uproar among the local residents in urban and rural areas.
They argue that the new taxes are punitive and aimed at frustrating indigenous farmers, landowners who have no other means of income.
But the county government insists that any property that has title attracts rates. Only those people living in communal land or group ranches will not pay rates, according to a senior county government official.
In 2018, the county government announced that commercial and rental buildings’ owners in Kajiado County towns will annually pay special land rates amounting to billions.
It said it is targeting to collect Sh1 billion annually to boost revenues. Land rates are the biggest revenue earner in the county.
Over the years, landlords have only been paying Sh500 in the land rates covering the ground floor but the new law stipulated each floor is subject to a charge of Sh500 annually if the building is storeyed.
Ongata Rongai has the biggest number of storeyed building estimated at 3,000. Ngong and Kitengela towns are ranked second and third with more than 5,000 such buildings.