MORE than 13,000 acres under the custody of East African Portland Cement Company in Athi River are at a centre of a brewing tussle pitting alleged community gangs and the company.
There have been reports of fatal attacks on the alleged grabbed land under parcels numbers 8784/4, 10424, 10425 and 7815/1.
Some of the areas allegedly occupied by gangs include Stony Athi (781511), Kunkur Quarry (10425) and Aimi Ma Lukenya (10424).
“They have beaten our staff before when we went to place a Caveat emptor on the land that would caution members of the public against being duped into buying the land belonging to the government,” said EAPCC chief security manager Bonaya Huka.
EAPCC has been putting up newspaper adverts warning the public against buying the plots for about Sh250,000.
The quotation, according to the EAPCC, is far much below the average Sh3 million market price for a 50 by 100 feet plot along Mombasa Road.
Unsuspecting buyers, particularly from Nairobi, have been duped into buying the plots and being issued with fake title deeds, Huka said. He insisted EAPCC is the custodian of the original title deeds.
Syokimau/Mavoko Community Association and Kathama Welfare Association, however, claim they entered into a land sale agreement with EAPCC some years back.
The two community groups in Athi River are accusing some senior government officials of trying to grab “their” land.
The Syokimau/Mavoko Community Association chairman Pius Musembi claims members are usually arrested by the police and accused of trespass, despite having papers from EAPCC and the Ministry of Lands.
One of the documents Musembi showed us claims EAPCC’s board of directors approved the sale of a portion of land LR 8784/4 to them on May 26, 2011.
EAPCC's managing director Kepha Tande, however, disputed this, saying there have been several land brokers with such letters.
Through Letangule and Company Advocates in a letter dated March 20, 2013, Musembi claims the group partly paid for the EAPCC land.
The Lands ministry is alleged to have sanctioned the sale of the land through a letter dated January 8, 2013, according to documents from Musembi.
“As the matter has been duly approved by the board of directors, I have no objection to the said transaction subject to concurrence by the Ministry of Industrialisation,” the letter signed by the then Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabea reads in part.
Tande, however, maintains the firm's title deeds are intact and some of them were recently used in securing compensation from the ongoing construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway line. Land transactions helped EAPCC to turn around Sh386.63 million full-year loss to a profit of Sh7.16 billion for the 12 months to June 2015.
Kathama Community Association chairman Peter Mwandia claimed a task-force was formed to establish the extension of irregular land allocation in Athi River after cases of claims to the land using fake titles increased.
“In fact, police arrest us as we survey the land and then ask Portland to give them documents so that they can charge us,” Mwandia said, adding that such requests are usually not honoured by EAPCC.
National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri recently announced the government intends to resettle Mavoko Slum dwellers on a 3,000-acre land formerly owned by the EAPCC in Athi River town.
Swazuri addressed the residents during his official tour of the EAPCC property and said the constitution allows the government to resettle citizens when there is need.
"Portland has used the materials they needed from the land until they exhausted it. If we leave the land just like that then it will be grabbed since there are many land grabbers around," he said.
EAPCC has, however, maintained it will continue mining kunkur – coarse limestone – on the controversial land.
Hope of being resettled sparked off another invasion attempt that was linked to the recent killing of one person.
Machakos county police commander Jacinta Wesonga declined to comment on increased cases of insecurity involving gangs on the controversial land.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, in a letter on November 13, 2015, requested the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate cases of land grabbing of the EAPCC land in Mavoko.
Mutua said he had consulted board members of the EAPCC, the National Land Commission and Machakos county officers.
According to the letter, Mutua claimed 13,000 acres of land had been grabbed and among those listed as land grabbers was area MP Patrick Makau.
Makau has never responded to Mutua’s allegations.
Another person named by Mutua in the letter, Mary Wambua, says she occupied the land in 2010 and has since called the place her home.