Mombasa businessman surrenders grabbed land

An aerial shot of the land measuring 0.04 hectares that had been grabbed from Tom Mboya Avenue (formerly Tudor Road) in Mombasa County.

In a rare show of honesty, a businessman has voluntarily surrendered to the government a road reserve worth Sh18 million illegally allocated to him in 1997.

The land measuring 0.04 hectares was grabbed from Tom Mboya Avenue (formerly Tudor Road) in Mombasa County.

But Mr Harith Swaleh has changed his mind and decided to hand back the government its land after over 20 years of ownership.

Court records show that the businessman engaged the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) with a proposal to voluntarily surrender back the property to the government.

The commission accepted the proposal and an agreement was entered into and registered in court before Mombasa Environment and Land Court Judge Nelly Matheka on May 23.

“Mr Swaleh voluntarily agreed to surrender his interest in the property number Mombasa Island/Block XI/950 and to issue vacant possession of the same within 60 days,” the commission's Head of Corporate Affairs Eric Ngumbi said.

The parties abandoned the litigation after Mr Swaleh surrendered all his interest in the land.

Following the surrender, the director of survey has been directed to amend the registry index map of Section XI and cancel any records, deed plans that created the said property and revert the said property to its original purpose of a road reserve.

The Land Registrar Mombasa has also been directed to rectify by cancellation of any entries of leases registered on the property.

A permanent injunction has also been issued against Mr Swaleh, its agents and or servants restraining them from trespassing, leasing, transferring and wasting the property.

Reacting to the new development, the commission has urged any other person who was irregularly allocated public land to surrender voluntarily.

“The commission invites all other persons who have grabbed public property to consider voluntarily surrendering the same in lieu of lengthy and costly litigation which will nevertheless lead to forfeiture of the same to the government,” Mr Ngumbi said.

The businessman was sued together with former Lands Commissioner Wilson Gachanja who the commission accused of facilitating the fraudulent acquisition.

The ethics body filed the case after its independent investigations disclosed that Mr Gachanja had in November 1997 illegally, fraudulently and corruptly allocated the property by excising the same from the road reserve set aside for the future expansion and development of Tom Mboya Avenue.

 EACC argued that the property was not available for alienation to Mr Swaleh or any other person at the time of the allocation since it was already public land.

The commission had told the court that in alienating the road reserve ,vested in the then Mombasa Council for the use and benefit of the public, Mr Gachanja acted in breach of public trust and as such, his actions were fraudulent, illegal and null and void.

Through Nzioki wa Kamau advocates, the commission accused Mr Gachanja of alienating the property to the businessman without any or any legal authority.

It further accused the former commissioner of alienating the property to Mr Swaleh for residential purposes in contravention of the law.

“Mr Gachanja alienated the property to the businessman with knowledge that it was a road reserve, that had not been closed or altered or its use changed in accordance with applicable legal requirements,” Mr Ngumbi said.

The defunct Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case against Mr Swaleh in 2007