Documents show a sublease for 25 years was granted, starting October 31, 2007.
KAMPALA - Controversy has erupted over a 13-acre plot near the Source of the Nile Bridge, also New Jinja Bridge, with two investors showing land titles as proof of claim.
Tirupati Development Uganda Ltd and Thumar Joy Mangalam Patel are tussling over LRV3852 Folio 22 Plot 24, Kyabazinga Way, in Nalufenya.
On Friday, Tirupati managing director Hashad Barot testified at the land probe public hearing in Kampala. He filed an urgent complaint last week at the probe chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
The Ovino Mall and Tirupati Mazima Mall proprietor lamented that Patel had obtained a freehold title dated August 2, 2019.
Flanked by his lawyers Josephat Mutesasira and Phillip Kibenge, Barot purported fraudulent acquisition and abuse of office.
The property developer explained that Tirupati applied to Jinja Municipal Council (JMC) for 14 acres of land. Documents show a sub-lease for 25 years was granted, starting October 31, 2007. JMC had the head lease, having obtained it from Jinja District Land Board.
Barot lamented that events took a turn for the worse in 2008.
"We applied for plan approval for the shopping mall and recreation park. But the Jinja town clerk told us to stop, saying the New Jinja Bridge was being constructed, and that there was a need to ascertain where it would pass," said Barot.
He submitted to the commission a letter dated July 10, 2009 from the town clerk addressed to the municipal engineer, advising that Tirupati's plan be halted pending certainty over the scope of the new bridge.
Barot also submitted a letter dated December 23, 2016, addressed to the Tirupati managing director, from the then-town clerk Francis Byabagambi, inviting him for a meeting on January 11, 2017.
At the meeting, it was acknowledged that an acre had been removed from the 14 acres for the bridge project development. Barot said he accepted the acre loss and insisted on commencing construction but was told to wait.
When deputy lead counsel John Bosco Suuza inquired about the time Tirupati became aware that a behind-the-scenes machination was underway, Barot said reality struck last Thursday, when heavy machinery was moved to the land.
"Yesterday [Thursday], we were surprised that unknown people had moved bulldozers onto the land. That is why we came to the commission of inquiry to address the matter urgently, otherwise, we are in for big losses because of fraud," said Barot.
Jinja mayor testifies
Meanwhile, Jinja mayor Majid Batambuze acknowledged the Tirupati lease and said he found a persisting problem, having been elected in 2016.
"When I assumed office, I found a file on my desk saying the land had been turned to freehold and given to Yahya Kisakye and Ashraf Buyinza. The commissioner land registration, Sarah Kulata, said Tirupati had not complied with the lease terms," he said.
The mayor said Kulata illogically said Tirupati had not constructed the recreation centre within a year, and that the company did not inform JMC that it had obtained a loan from Bank of Baroda.
"There was no way Tirupati would develop this in a year. We also have correspondence from Tirupati dated March 18, 2009, informing JMC of its intention to obtain a loan," explained Batambuze.
The mayor said lands, housing and urban development minister Betty Amongi, in a letter dated December 27, 2018 addressed to the town clerk, recommended that the land be given to Patel.
Suuza asked: "Is it normal? Why was the letter not addressed to you?"
Batambuze responded: "Ordinarily, the political head of the municipality is the mayor, so the minister should have written to the mayor and not the speaker."
Batambuze said in a letter addressed to the town clerk dated January 3, 2019, he emphasised that Tirupati's interest should be catered for and that Patel must explain his interest.
The mayor emphasised that prior, investment state minister Evelyne Anite requested Amongi to avail suitable land for Patel to set up a shopping mall.