land policy

Enjoying the citizen status through restrictive land policy

The draft National Land Policy of Tanzania is expected to be made into law early next year, 2017. Among the notable provisions in the policy are the requirements that non-Tanzanians cannot own land except under the lease hold tenure for a maximum 33 years and that such non-Tanzanians can only own such lease hold for investment purposes, only.

The move follows President Magufuli’s revocation of title to 13 hectares of land which belonged to Tanzania’s former Prime Minister, Fredrick Sumaye, on ground that he left the land “idle”.

So, it’s not enough that citizens alone can own freehold tenures of land. They must also develop the land.

In Africa, it is often that citizens of a given country wonder what they have to benefit from being citizens. It’s not like if a Kenyan or Ugandan is killed on the streets of Illinois, our governments will send investigators into the matter. The taxes citizens pay are often too high compared to those of non-citizens because the non-citizens are “investors” who must not be sent away by hefty taxes. Sometimes, the “investors” are even given tax breaks or exemptions because they are providing a service much needed by the citizens.

So, when does a citizen in an ordinary African Country get to enjoy the status of being citizen? No doubt, it is through restrictive land policy. In the entire Africa, no country beats Zimbabwe at restrictive land policy. Tanzania has drafted a National Land Policy, hereinafter “the policy”, which will benefit the Tanzanians.

But who is a foreigner? A foreigner, according to the policy, is any natural person who is not a citizen of Tanzania or a body corporate whose controlling interest lies with non-Tanzanians. This means that we shall see an increase in partnerships between local Tanzanian companies/ citizens with foreigners who wish to own some land. There may be mergers of foreign companies with local companies which wish to own land on less restrictive terms. This all means that commercial law practice is going to flourish in a few months, in Tanzania.

To avoid instances where foreigners will acquire land and not use it for the purpose for which is given, it is now a requirement that all foreigners must register with the Tanzania Investment Centre before they acquire land. More so, foreigners can only own land directly but cannot hold it on behalf of other persons, natural or legal.

These restrictions put Tanzania’s citizens at a greater advantage. They can freely acquire land in their country and if foreigners who have acquired large chicks of land do not fulfill their obligations to the local communities, then the foreigners’ titles can be revoked.

The policy seems pan Africanist – Africa for Africans and will go a long way in ensuring that Tanzanians are not subjected to being squatters in their own country. The challenge now remains for Tanzanians to well utilize their land rights for the country’s development.

Other African countries have a lot to learn from restrictive land policies. I believe it is not fair to the citizens that public land should be allocated to an investor to carry out a trade which could as well be carried out by the citizens. For example, it goes against the good conscience of a country like Kenya to allocate public land to a foreign investor who is going to grow maize. Whereas Kenyans also grow maize and suffer the cost of land as one of the factors of production, a foreign investor should not be given what a Kenyan deserves more.

Under the policy, women are granted equal rights with men for access to land. However, critics of the policy have been quick to point out that the policy does not expressly state how the rights of women to access/own land in Tanzania will be protected.


For long, the relationship between the state and the citizen is analogous to an abusive relationship where the state invests nothing in the relationship but demands the citizen to give his or her all for the relationship. Often times, the citizen is required to be patriotic (to love his country, and not ask what his country can do for him), to fulfill all his citizen duties such as paying taxes and not siding with those who dissent with the government, to be a law abiding citizen, among other duties.

Of course, a lot more can be done to make a person enjoy his citizen status: the right to apply for state jobs (very often the government employs expatriates yet there are citizens with similar qualifications), ensuring that the right to vote is attainable (there are always complaints of voter disenfranchisement), but a restrictive land policy that allows an inhibited ownership of land to the citizen and a restricted ownership to the non-citizen goes a long way in making the citizen feel that “this is my country”.


This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 9, Issue 4 of December 23rd 2016

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