Just who stands to gain from ejection of over 6,000 squatters from the disputed 4,800-acre sisal plantation belonging to Voi Point Limited in Mkamenyi?
And who approved subdivision of the land for sale?
These are the questions exercising the minds of members of a Senate committee investigating claims of illegal subdivision of the land, threatening to leave thousands of families homeless.
The county government wants the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to investigate the transaction that the devolved unit has denied.
Lands executive Mwandawiro Mghanga said the exercise was marred by corruption and illegal dealings and that officers in his department have already recorded statements with the DCI.
In 2019, the county government invited detectives to inquire about the deal, but the investigations were halted after the devolved unit allegedly withdrew the case.
“We were shocked when we were told that the case was withdrawn, allegedly by us.
We did not give such orders,” Mr Mghanga said.
In its latest letter to the DCI, the county government has stated that the investigations should continue.
“We wish to advise that we are not privy to a letter dated June 17, 2019 mentioned in your letter which is said to originate from our legal department.
“The said letter is purported to have instructed you to discontinue investigations. Our stand still remains that [they] should continue,” stated the letter that was signed by County Secretary Liverson Mghendi.
Speaking before the Senate Committee for Lands, Environment and Natural Resources a week ago, Governor Granton Samboja and Lands Chief Officer Reuben Ngeti disowned the consent documents purported to have been issued for the subdivision.
Mr Ngeti, who has recorded statements with the DCI, said he did not sign any document to authorise subdivision of the land, which the company started selling in 2019.
The Lands ministry says it received change-of-user authorisation from the county government to transfer the sisal estate from agricultural to commercial land.
Sources privy to the ongoing Senate committee inquiry said documents issued by the National Land Commission (NLC) approving the exercise will also be investigated.
Speaking to journalists in Taveta, Taita Taveta Senator Johnes Mwaruma, who is a member of the committee, said NLC told the Senate that they authorised the subdivision after receiving consent documents from the county government.
“The matter is with the DCI to establish whether the documents were a forgery,” he said.
Mr Mwaruma said the committee wrote a letter to the DCI asking about the status of the investigations. That was when it was learnt that the county government had withdrawn the case.
Senators are also pushing to have squatters who have been living on the sisal estate resettled.
Voi Point Limited has set aside 35 acres to resettle 28 families, but the leaders together with the squatters have been pushing for more land.
“We want the company to cede over 200 acres because 35 acres is not enough,” Mr Mwaruma said.
The Senate committee visited the area in March following a petition by the squatters to have the land’s ownership reverted to the local community on claims that it was their ancestral land.
The estate’s lease was renewed in 1993 for 99 years.
In 2018, the farm that was previously managed by Voi Sisal Estate was transferred to Voi Point Limited, a transaction that is also being investigated by the government.
The farm has been commercially growing and processing sisal for decades.