Portland Cement begins process to sell its land to Athi-River squatters

Athi River squatters

Athi leaders led by Mavoko MP-elect Patrick Makau (centre front row) during the East Africa Portland Cement land regularisation public participation forum in Athi River on August 26, 2022.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

East Africa Portland Cement (EAPC) Athi-River has begun the process of settling dozens of squatters occupying part of its land in Mavoko Sub-county, Machakos County.

The cash-strapped cement manufacturer has initiated the land sale and regularization process of three parcels of land LR 8784/144/145 and 653 measuring 709 acres. 

The firm convened its first public participation exercise on Friday to discuss the sale process and land prices.

The meeting held at Inter County public grounds in Athi-River, was attended by hundreds of squatters, political leaders, EAPC management, lawyers and Geoner Systems ltd officials who were acting as land sale agents.  

Portland Cement said squatters who have settled in the land have been recognized through existing umbrella bodies. The squatters drawn from Kwa Mang'eli, Kasoito, Slaughter, Sofia and Kinanie slums have written to the cement firm to be legally settled in the land. 

The squatters who settled under three structured groups which include Syokimau Mavoko Community Association, Ngwatanio ya Mukamba Self Help group and Kathama Welfare Association, have been occupying the land since 2010. Portland management has since recognised the three bodies.

"We assure the squatters no one will be evicted, you will be plot owners," East Africa Portland Cement Head of Corporate Affairs and Strategy Gordon Mutugi said on Friday.  

Those applying to be allocated land will pay an administrative fee of Sh100, 000 for a 40 by 80 plot. The applicant will sign a sale agreement and will be given a beacon certificate which can be used to acquire loans from financial institutions. 

An applicant will then be required to pay Sh600,000 in instalments before being issued title deeds. The amount payable by registered members will be subject to the occupied parcel's size.

“Public participation is meant to ensure a transparent negotiation process. As a company, we want to ensure a smooth sale process. Our directive is not final and it will include all stakeholders," said Mr Mutugi. 

The squatters lauded the move saying it will end protracted wrangles, court cases and uncertainty that has affected them for the past decade. They, however, want land prices and payment period to be reviewed.

"The assurance that the land will be sold to us is good news," said Mr Wambua Kioko adding that the cement processor should undertake several corporate social responsibility projects on the land.

The squatters' umbrella association's patron Mr Pius Musembi urged East Africa Portland Cement to fast-track the process.

"We commend Portland Cement management for the bold move. This is a win-win situation,” Mr Musembi said.   

Mavoko MP-elect Patrick Makau urged Portland Cement Company to consider lowering the land prices to make it affordable to the squatters, most of whom rely on casual jobs to eke a living.

"We are looking for more public participation. We hope Portland will reduce the land prices to make it more affordable [to the squatters]. I propose the price to be reduced to Sh400,000 per plot payable for three years," said Makau.

The legislator urged the company to liaise with financial institutions to negotiate affordable loan repayment rates.