Court name
Court of Appeal of Tanzania

Peter Nderia Mushi vs Minister For Land Housing and Urban Development () [1984] TZCA 13 (01 October 1984);

Law report citations
1984 TLR 64 (TZCA)
Media neutral citation
[1984] TZCA 13

Kisanga, J.A.: read the following considered judgment of the Court: This appeal arises from the  E ruling of the High Court at Arusha (Mroso, J.) refusing to grant an application for certiorari to set aside the decision of the Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development in a dispute over a  F piece of land situated at Kibosho in Moshi District. The background to this matter may be summarised very briefly as follows.
On 26th January, 1956, one Nderia s/o Nambuo granted a customary lease over the disputed land to one Sindato s/o Obo. The agreement for such lease which was in writing was produced in evidence  G and forms part of the record. Sindato died but it is not clear from the evidence when exactly. However, upon Sindato's death Nderia stated that the land was returned to him by Sindato's personal representative, one Bernard. Then there was ample evidence that in 1969 Nderia devised the land to his son Peter, the present appellant, and that the appellant moved into possession.  H Sindato's sons, Augustine and Bernard, opposed the appellant's entry and lodged a complaint in court. As a result the appellant was charged with forcible entry vide Kiwoso Primary Court Criminal Case No. 190/1969. However, the court, accepting the evidence as summarised above, acquitted the  I appellant on the charge because he had entered

  A on the land which belonged to himself. The court then went to observe that Sindato's son might enter into an agreement with the appellant for a customary lease upon the usual payment of the customary dues called "masiro" provided the appellant was agreeable, but  otherwise the appellant   B was entitled to have his land and to compensate Sindato's son for the coffee which Sindato had grown on that land. None of Sindato's sons ever approached the appellant for any such customary lease, and the appellant has continued to be in occupation of the land.
In another dimension, following the acquittal on the criminal charge, the appellant brought a suit for   C malicious prosecution against Augustine and Bernard who were the complainants in the criminal case. He got judgment and was awarded damages against Bernard alone. Bernard did not pay the damages ordered, and so the appellant applied for execution of judgment to attach the coffee trees   D on the disputed land which trees belonged to Bernard, by virtue of his having inherited them from his father, and for which the appellant had not yet paid compensation. It would seem that after the necessary procedures for a public auction were complied with no one turned up to bid for the   E purchase of the coffee trees, and so the appellant, on application, was permitted to buy them in around April 1970. Then it would appear that on 18th May, 1970, the appellant, with the assistance of the police evicted a number of people, including one Thomas Lesio, who were occupying part of the disputed land, and in 1976 the said Thomas Lesio sued him before the Kilimanjaro Customary   F Land Tribunal for wrongful eviction from such land. The said Tribunal, after recording the evidence declined to adjudicate on the matter on the ground that the matter was "res judicata" in that the appellant was lawfully in occupation of the disputed land pursuant to a court order. Thomas Lesio   G and four others who were not identified appealed to the Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development. The Minister found that the land in question had been under customary lease for a long time, and that as a result the appellant willingly accepted Thomas Lesio and four others as his   H tenants under the customary lease holding until when he evicted them on 18th May, 1970. He further found that the land, thus held under customary lease, was enfranchised by the Customary Leaseholds (Enfranchisement) Act No. 47 of 1968 which came into operation in Kilimanjaro Region on 10th October, 1969, so that the appellant could no longer regard Thomas Lesio and four others as   I his tenants and evict them as he purported to do on 18th May, 1970. He accordingly reversed the decision of the Kilimanjaro Customary

Land Tribunal and awarded title and possession of the disputed land to Thomas Lesio and four  A others. Dissatisfied with that decision the appellant unsuccessfully applied to the High Court for an order of certiorari, and hence this appeal.
In the High Court the appellant/applicant was represented by Mr. Kinabo but in this Court he was represented by Mr. Lyasenga while the respondent Republic was represented by Mr. Mtingele. Mr.  B Lyasenga filed a total of fifteen grounds of complaint, but we think that the whole appeal turns mainly on the issue of jurisdiction, although counsel did not raise it squarely. It would seem plain that a Customary Land Tribunal will have jurisdiction under the Customary Leaseholds  C (Enfranchisement) Act if it is shown that the land forming the subject matter of the claim was held under customary land tenure at the time when the Act came into operation. If that test is satisfied then the proceedings before the Tribunal respecting such a matter and any appeal from there to the  D Minister would be proper. If, however, the test is not satisfied then the trial proceedings before such Tribunal and any appeal from there to the Minister would be null and void for want of jurisdiction. It is along these lines that we propose to approach this matter.
The Minister when giving his decision stated that this was a clear case of nyarubanja. However, it  E becomes necessary for the court to be certain on this point because it goes to the issue of jurisdiction. For, when the Tribunal or the Minister assumes jurisdiction they should make sure that they do so on true and valid grounds. The evidence shows that the only customary lease created on  F the land in question during the relevant period is that which Nderia, the appellant's father, granted to Sindato s/o Obo which lease was  evidenced in writing on 26th January, 1956. Nderia in his evidence told the Tribunal that upon Sindato's death the land was returned to him by Sindato's son,  G one Bernard, and there was overwhelming evidence that after such return of the land, Nderia donated it to his son, the appellant, some time in 1969; the appellant duly occupied the land and he has remained in occupation since.
There was no evidence whatsoever that either Nderia or his son, the appellant, subsequently granted anyone else any lease on this land. Indeed after the criminal case in which the appellant was  H acquitted on the charge of forcible entry, the court observed that if the appellant was agreeable, he might grant a customary lease to Sindato's son upon payment of the customary dues called "masiro", but there is no evidence that he has granted any such tenancy to Sindato's son or anyone  I at all.

  A There is yet another matter which seems to warrant consideration and that is this. It is not quite clear how Thomas Lesio is connected with the land in question. For, as has already been stated, the only lease that was created on the disputed land during the relevant period was the one that Nderia   B granted to Sindato. But Thomas Lesio is not the son of Sindato. On the evidence Sindato's sons are Bernard, Lesiani, Henri, Agustin and Mathias. Thomas is only shown to be Sindato's nephew, but there is no evidence to suggest that such relationship enabled Thomas to claim, through inheritance, any tenancy granted to Sindato.
  C And finally, there was evidence that when the land was leased to Sindato there was an obligation on the part of the leasee to pay customary dues known as "masiro" to the lessor. But there is no indication at all on the evidence that Thomas Lesio ever paid any such customary dues to anyone.   D Indeed all along Thomas Lesio has consistently denied that there was any customary lease over the land in question. He makes it very clear that his claim is based on the allegation that the land descended to him through inheritance from his forefathers who held it in their own right and not under customary lease.
  E The Minister was therefore wrong in finding that the land in question was enfranchised by the Customary Leaseholds (Enfranchisement) Act, because when the Act came into operation in Kilimanjaro Region on 10th October, 1969, there was no leasehold on the said land which the Act could enfranchise. As was shown earlier, the customary lease over this land terminated when   F Bernard returned that land to Nderia and Nderia devised it to the appellant. This must have been before 10th October, 1969, because the judgment in the criminal case in which the appellant was   G acquitted on the charge of forcible entry onto this very land after it was thus devised to him is dated 9th June, 1969. Thus it becomes clear that the disputed land is not one to which the Customary Leaseholds (Enfranchisement) Act applies, and for that reason neither the Kilimanjaro Customary Land Tribunal nor the Minister had jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute relating to such land.
  H That, in our view, was sufficient to dispose of this appeal, but we consider it appropriate to refer at least to some of the grounds of appeal raised by counsel for the appellant. The Minister in dealing with the appeal, directed the taking of additional evidence which he duly took into account in   I arriving at his decision. But the record further shows that such additional evidence was taken in the absence of the appellant, and Mr. Lyasenga submitted that this offended

against the rules of natural justice. We think that this complaint is justified. The appellant ought to  A have been afforded the opportunity to cross examine those who testified against his interest and, if necessary, to call his own additional witnesses.
Again it is noted that at the trial before the Tribunal there was only one complainant, namely  B Thomas Lesio. But on appeal before the Minister there were five complainants, namely Thomas Lesio and four others who were not identified, and the Minister in his judgment accordingly awarded the title to Thomas Lesio and four others. This was obviously irregular for two main reasons. First, it was clearly wrong to join on appeal a person who was not a party at the trial. Secondly, it was a  C serious error to award title and possession of the land to the four unidentified persons. Such award was practically meaningless. A proper decision must clearly identify the parties whose rights and obligations have been determined in the particular suit. D
Again the Minister in his decision ordered one Patris, the appellant's brother, to give vacant possession to Thomas Lesio and four others. But Patris was never a party at the trial. So that to the extent that the Minister's decision relates to Patris, that decision was equally objectionable on the same grounds as those given in the preceding paragraph. E
For all these reasons we are satisfied that the Minister's decision was a nullity, and that the learned High Court Judge ought to have held so. The appeal therefore succeeds. We accordingly grant the order for certiorari and set aside the Minister's decision. F
Appeal allowed.