Tatu City condemns Kiambu County governor over extortion attempt




Tatu City, one of the largest foreign direct investors in Kenya, has condemned Kiambu County Governor Kimani Wamatangi and his advisor for seeking to extort Kshs 4.3 billion ($33 million) in land.

Tatu City is owned and developed by Rendeavour, Africa’s largest new city builder, whose shareholders include investors from New Zealand, UK, US and Norway.

Governor Wamatangi has held up the approval of Tatu City’s new Master Plan for more than a year and a half while he and county officials attempted to seize more than 40 acres of land, including for Governor Wamatangi’s residence.

(TOP: Preston Mendenhall, COO and Kenya Country Head at Rendeavour and Solomon Mahinda, Executive VP, Tatu City, during a press briefing where they condemned Kiambu County Governor Kimani Wamatangi and his advisors for seeking to extort Kshs 4.3 billion – $33 million – in land. Tatu City estimates that Governor Wamatangi’s delay has cost the county and country more than Kshs 16 billion – $125 million – in additional investment value and 4,500 new jobs for young Kenyans.).

“It’s time to blow the whistle on Governor Wamatangi’s attempted extortion of Tatu City,” said Preston Mendenhall, Chief Operating Officer and Kenya Country Head at Rendeavour. “Governor Wamatangi, in a series of meetings with Tatu City and its representatives, has illegally demanded free land in return for approving Tatu City’s new Master Plan. We condemn Governor Wamatangi for harming Kenya’s investment climate and destroying job creation.”

Tatu City estimates that Governor Wamatangi’s delay has cost the county and country more than Kshs 16 billion ($125 million) in additional investment value and 4,500 new jobs for young Kenyans.

In a press conference in Nairobi, Tatu City provided the media with a letter titled “Pending Issues” from Salome Wainaina, County Executive Committee (CEC) Member, Lands, Housing, Physical Planning, Municipal Administration and Urban Development. In the 16 April 2024 letter, Wainaina demands that Tatu City “surrender” more than 40 acres of land, including land for Wamatangi’s residence. In the letter and in meetings with Tatu City representatives, Governor Wamatangi and CEC Member Wainaina have made the surrender of land a condition of Tatu City’s Master Plan approval.

According to Kenyan law, there is no legal basis or procedure for Tatu City to surrender land to Kiambu County – unless the county pays for it.

Adhering to Kenyan and international best practices in urban planning, the Tatu City Master Plan has 103 acres of land set aside for “public purpose” use. The land is available for public amenities, such as hospitals, schools, police and fire stations. The Land Act of Kenya provides that, if the government requires land for a public purpose, then a compulsory acquisition process must follow, meaning that the land must first be acquired through a process of just and equitable compensation to the landowner.

To further support its accusation against Wamatangi, Tatu City showed documents that chart the arduous approval process it followed for its new Master Plan. It submitted its amended Master Plan to the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning for initial review. Following this submission, an elaborate process was undertaken including multi-stakeholder interaction with national and county offices and public participation. All stakeholder feedback was addressed in the amended Master Plan. In June 2023, the National Director of Physical Planning invited further comments on the amended Tatu City Master Plan through a newspaper advertisement. After a 60-day period without substantial feedback or objection, the National Director of Physical Planning, prior to approving the amended Tatu City Master Plan, finally sought a letter of no objection from the Kiambu County Government, according to the provisions of the Physical and Land Use Planning Act, 2019.

Salome Wainaina, the Kiambu County CEC Member who authored the extortion letter, confirmed Tatu City had met all requirements – but she and Governor Wamatangi personally refused to allow the approval to proceed.

At the press conference, Tatu City called on Governor Wamatangi, who has no formal role in the Master Plan approval process, to stop meddling in land planning and investment matters, and for CEC to issue a no objection letter to the revised Master Plan.

Tatu City, a pioneering Special Economic Zone, has created more than 20,000 jobs since 2021. The new city is home to more than 2,000 affordable and mid-income apartments, public and private schools with 6,000 students and 82 businesses, among them leading Kenyan and international companies. More than Kshs 385 billion in investment has been catalyzed at Tatu City, including some of Africa’s leading facilities, notably a new global 5,000-seat call centre which will double in size to employ over 10,000 Kenyans in the coming years, and cold storage and logistics facilities which has strengthened Kenya’s food and medicine security.

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