Understanding the Right of Occupancy of Land in Tanzania

Understanding the Right of Occupancy of Land in Tanzania
Photo/ Courtesy

In Tanzania the word land is defined under Section 2 of the Land Act 1999, that land includes the surface of the earth and earth below the surface and all substances other than minerals and petroleum forming part of or below the surface, things naturally growing on the land, buildings and other structures permanently affixed to the land.

However, all land in Tanzania is recognized as Public Land vested in the President as a trustee on behalf of all citizens as per the Land Act 1999.  It is obvious therefore that, individuals do not own land rather interests in land or term of years.

Despite the fact that the President has been conferred with such wide powers it does not imply that he can abuse the same. He has just been vested with administrative trust to ensure that land is properly managed and developed for the welfare of the citizens. Any compulsory acquisition for public interest/purpose for instance must follow the due process of law.  

And the local legislation has vested the entire property in, and control of all, minerals and mineral oils in the state. No person can prospect, remove or mine any of these items without a lease or license from the state. See, for example, the Mining Act 1998 and the Land Act 1999.

But it is clear that the pre-existing rights (including long-standing occupation/use of land) to be recognized and 159 secured by law (Granted Right of Occupancy and Deemed Right of Occupancy) as per Article 24 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977, as amended.  For quite a long time there has been conflicting between the granted right and the deemed right of occupancy. To wit, the granted right of occupancy has always been on the winning side leaving the deemed right struggling.

With this principle therefore it is expected that any person dealing with a right of occupancy regardless of its nature must bear in mind that none is inferior. Even where the customary right of occupancy will be uprooted in favor of the granted right of occupancy yet an adequate compensation must be paid.