STANDOFF! EX-VP Ssekandi, late tycoon Kaaya family in mega land row

The family of late Cranmer Kaaya, father to Kaki Investments tycoon Tom Kaaya (pictured) who succumbed to Covid19 months ago are battling with Ssekandi

By Our Reporter

Ex-Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi has always come off as scandal-free while deliberately being careful to avoid being implicated in anything shady. But the family of late NRA bush war funder Cranmer Kaaya (father to Kaki Investments tycoon Tom Kaaya who succumbed to Covid19 months ago) wants him investigated for becoming owner of close to 5000 acres of land which they call theirs in Bulemezi Luwero (current Nakasongola district). Years before his death (2014 to be exact), tycoon Tom Kaaya had tried fighting off Ssekandi by lodging caveats against me he subsequently bought the land from but was unable to make much progress.

Available documentation indicates that the disputed land is part of the more than 8 square miles that the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) leased to the late Cranmer Kaaya in 1969. The original lease duration was stipulated to be 40 years which would expire in 2013. But being a shrewd rancher and businessman he was for decades, Cranmer Kaaya exercised his constitutional right and applied for lease extension/variation in November 2011, two years before the expiry date. And indeed ULC granted his lease variation application, after he paid up all the statutory fees, and his lease was extended from the original 40 to 99 years. This simply means that this same land would remain Kaaya’s up to 2072.

Writing on behalf of the family or late Cranmer Kaaya’s estate, Rev Richard Kigongo Kayizi Kaaya says that to their surprise, in 2013, a group of people came up claiming ownership of what was dubiously created as Block 769 Plot 11; Block 769 Plot 9 and Block 769 Plot 10. Ex-VP Ssekandi’s claim relates to plot 11 which in 2013 was created with the following people being the joint proprietors: Jackson Kanini, Everest Muvanesa, Godfrey Mujasi and Andrew Mugarura. This is just part of the 8 square miles which Mzee Cranmer Kaaya (who generously supplied cattle off his Butuntumula Sub County-based ranch to feed Museveni’s NRA rebels) owns in the area.

Everest Muvanesa & Co purport to have become owners of the land in early 2010s and theirs is a freehold title relating to 332.448 hectares of land. It’s this same land Ssekandi acquired from them as a purchaser in June 2013. The Ssekandi transaction was ironically authenticated as genuine by the ministry of lands officials and witnessed by an advocate called Angela Nasaka. The Chief Government Valuer, a key official in the Lands Ministry, examined the property and authenticated the Shs100m price which Ssekandi paid as appropriate.

In their November 2021 complaint to the Lands Ministry, the beneficiaries of the Cranmer Kaaya estate (led by Rev Richard Kigongo Kayizi Kaaya) contest the authenticity of Ssekandi’s land title dismissing it as fraudulent because it was issued in relation to the land on which they have a clear lease from ULC indicating it’s their land up to 2072. The purpose for which Ssekandi acquired the land is disclosed in the documents of the IGG (to whom the matter has since been referred) to be farming just like in the case of the Kaayas whose late father first acquired it to carry out commercial livestock and crop farming activities.

The Kaayas wonder how land which was leased to them with a lease title can simultaneously have a freehold title issued on it (more over after the Uganda Land Commission had granted their lease variation application prompting them to make all the statutory payments). On the IGG file, they adduce all the documents corroborating their claim. The documents show that their late father (a great friend of President Museveni) paid in late 2011 the assessed premium of Shs20m and the annual ground rent payable per year which was assessed to be Shs1m per annum.

HEADS ROLL

On getting a copy of the petition from the Kaayas, the Lands Ministry (naturally ashamed at the mistakes their officers made years ago regarding the Ssekandi land) wrote to the IGG Beti Kamya imploring her to intervene and advise on the way forward. In his one page letter dated 1st December 2021, State Minister for Lands Dr. Sam Mayanja (who last Thursday drove to the Bukalasa Luwero Lands Ministry offices over the same matter) zeroes in on Luwero/Bukalasa Ministry Zonal Office Senior Surveyor Ivan Serwambala and asks Beti Kamya to inquire into his role and advise the Ministry on the appropriate disciplinary procedures.

Mayanja, who that Thursday directed Serwambala to report to the Permanent Secretary for further clarification on his status as the Ministry employee, says the circumstances under which Ssekandi and others became freehold title owners of land which had earlier on been properly leased out to the Kaaya family were fraudulent and wants the officers concerned to be sanctioned through a process spearheaded by the IGG. He says the transfer of the same land to Ssekandi was preceded by “double titling and unprofessional acts” in which Ivan Serwambala is alleged to have been the chief architect.

During the Thursday meeting, Mayanja (who had earlier on praised the PAS Barbara Nancy Asasira-led Luwero office for being among the best-ran MZOs) implored Serwambala to take the developments in good faith and agree to be investigated because that is the only way his innocence in the saga can be ascertained. A pensive-looking Serwambala (who had earlier on conducted the Minister’s delegation around the office) uneasily turned in his seat as Mayanja highlighted the allegations the Kaayas had made against him.

As part of her broader investigations, the newly posted IGG Beti Kamya (who has commenced her job with extreme enthusiasm) will inevitably have to inquire into the circumstances under which Ssekandi came to get a land title relating to land that had already been allocated to someone else. Kamya, who is clearly out to revive public trust in the IG office, will also be inquiring into the authenticity of the freehold title Ssekandi has relating to land which was not available in the first place. And naturally, there is simply no way the IGG will be able to credibly conduct any investigations without having to interrogate Ssekandi himself since he is the beneficiary of the impugned transfer and conversion of land from leasehold to freehold.

On his part, Serwambala says he will be glad to illustrate his innocence because he was not anywhere in the picture at the Luwero/Bukalasa MZO as of 2013 when the disputed conveyancing in favor of the ex-VP and his alleged predecessors in title took place. On Thursday after Mayanja announced the impending sanctioning against him, Serwambala briefly spoke to Daily Pepper and said he was ready to respond to all claims being made against him.

“That matter is much more complicated, which is why I can’t be angry with anybody. My Minister Dr. Sam Mayanja has tackled it the right way and all I will be required to do is to lay facts on the table and any credible investigation will find me innocent because I was not here when those things happened,” said Serwambala denying ever interacting with Ssekandi or any of his alleged proxies or predecessors in title because he wasn’t yet employed at the Bukalasa office. He also clarified that he has never come under pressure from anybody (be it Ssekandi or anyone else) to act in a certain way regarding the proprietorship of the land the Kaayas are disputing over. “I’m sure I will be cleared and emerge even stronger as a young civil servant,” Serwambala said in the Bukalasa MZO compound as workmates converged to console him.

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