By MUTHOKI MUMO firstname.lastname@example.org
A multi-million-shilling land scandal is unfolding in Machakos. At least 4,500 Kenyans have been duped to pay more than Sh50,000, as investors rush to speculate on land near the planned Konza ICT Park at Malili.One of the companies promising to sell land is New Konza Ranch, registered both as alimited liability company and as a society. But investigations by the Nation show that the company is yet to acquire land. It only hopes that the government will allocate it the resource.
“We are pursuing an allotment of land from the government in Kapiti Plains,” ranch chairman Muthiani Mwangangi said during a meeting called at the weekend near the district commissioner’s office in Mukaa.
As he talked, a lorry full of Administration Police and National Youth Service officers was on stand-by. A retinue of hired bouncers was also at hand to protect the officials from cameras and journalists.
The directors of the company were worried. Members had only been informed of the “special” meeting the previous day and most of them had been sidelined.
Late last year, an SMS was sent to the 4,500 shareholders requesting them to ‘top-up’ their Sh2,000 with Sh50,000 deposit to a bank account if they wanted to own their allotted land.
Those who failed to ‘top-up’ their Sh2,000 were not invited. Only about 500 shareholders were invited.
“Those are not our members. Our members are only the ones who’ve agreed to what we’re saying and have paid the Sh50,000 per share,” Mr Mwangangi said when asked about the others who had contributed Sh2,000.When the Nation visited the New Konza Ranch offices in Machakos three weeks ago, the Sh2,000 per share and Sh50,000 ‘top-up’ formula still stood. The company was promising an acre for Sh52,000 in an area where an acre can fetch as much as Sh1.5 million.
The location of the land remained equally dubious. The company representatives made reference to a faded map of a 3,870-hectare land parcel with no identifiable surveyor’s signature and no land registration numbers.
“It’s in Kapiti Plains,” was the explanation.
The firm, Mr Mwangangi claimed, had applied for 6,000 acres from the Ministry of Lands in Kapiti Plains. He attributed the delay in the allocation of land to the pending formation of the National Land Commission.
Kapiti Plains is a ranch after the Chumvi turn-off to Machakos on Mombasa Road, and before the 5,000-acre fenced-off ICT Park. It is a research facility owned by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
“On three separate incidents, we’ve received reports that there were people trying to sell the land. It’s not for sale and we’ve put up signs along Mombasa Road to that effect,” ILRI’s Board of Trustees secretary Bruce Scott said.
An officer from the Machakos Land Registry, who requested anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to press, confirmed that other than the 5,000-acre ICT land, there was no government land in Kapiti Plains.