Masaka: A long standing land wrangle between landlords and a section of tenants in Kyesiiga Sub -county of Masaka District, has taken a new twist, with the former rejecting nominal ground rent fees (busuulu) paid to them by the latter.
The landlords, including Mr Emmanuel Kaggwa and Florence Nakyanzi, are embroiled in a land row with their tenants and bibanja holders sitting on more than 150 acres of land.
At least 200 residents face eviction from the land they claim to have settled on for more than four decades.
Last week, the Masaka Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Joe Walusimbi, met the warring parties at Kyesiga Sub-county headquarters and tried to convince landlords to accept nominal ground rent fees raised by the tenants. However, the landlords rejected the money, saying they want the tenants to either acquire land titles or vacate the land.
“We really don’t know what to do now .They (landlords) have now started killing our animals and destroying our crops in an attempt to force us off the land,” Mr James Bagabo, one of the affected residents, said during the meeting with the RDC.
Mr Bagabo said at first, they were paying Shs1,000 and when the Land Act was amended in 2010, and the fees increased to Shs2,500, they continued paying, but the landlords still refused the money.
According to the Land Amendment Act 2010, the power to fix the annual nominal ground rent lies with the Lands ministry and the district land boards. The law allows the tenants to either pay the charges fixed by the minister or by their district land boards. For the case of Masaka District, the annual nominal ground rent for rural areas is Shs2,500 compared to the Shs5,000 that was fixed by the minister. Initially, sitting tenants were paying Shs1,000 to their landlords, a fee many landlords rejected.
According to the tenants, they legally acquired the land and they are equipped with agreements and other documents to prove their ownership.
“Some of us inherited the land from our grandparents, who were born and lived on this land and they were buried here. So, throwing us out would be the worst thing one can do because we don’t have anywhere to go,” Mr John Lule, another tenant, told the RDC.
Mr Walusimbi, ordered that there would be no more evictions on the land until all tenants and their documents have been assessed to verify their status.
“By all means, we shall identify the legal tenants from illegal settlers,” he said, adding that some people took advantage of landlords taking long to inspect their land to settle on it illegally.
According to the Land Amendment Act 2010, tenants can resist eviction, especially if they have been paying the annual nominal ground rent.
Landlords need a court order to evict tenants and must notify them before selling their land but some of these conditions are never followed and many tenants are being pushed off their law without court orders and due compensation.