In 2004, British investors Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage purchased the lease to Silverdale and Mbono Farms from Benjamin Mengi, brother to Reginald Mengi, an influential media personality in the national and pan-African business community. The purchase of the lease complied fully with the laws of Tanzania and no court has set the sale aside.
One year after the assignment of the lease, Benjamin Mengi demanded it back, stating he had not been paid in full. In fact, he had signed a receipt for the monies. When we refused to return the lease, he stated that he would drive the investors from Tanzania by any means, “cut to pieces in a coffin, if necessary” – a statement he made in front of the Regional Police Commander for the area.
A four-year campaign of violence and harassment was then unleashed against them facilitated by the police and judiciary and involving a number of state institutions. This included:
The refusal of the authorities to register the lease or recognise the Deed of Assignment;
The destruction of commercial contracts;
Violence to, and the imprisonment of, key operational staff; and
The repeated arrest, and ultimate imprisonment, of Mr Middleton on trumped-up charges.
A most destructive dynamic in this campaign was Mr. Mengi’s use of the courts and judiciary to engage the investors in years of costly and vexatious litigation within a corrupt legal system, which crippled them financially and emotionally.
The fundamental issues this case illuminates are corruption and abuse of law. A simple choice faces the Tanzanian government: to support the rule of law and protect the lawful interests of bona fide investors, or to facilitate criminal behaviour, as in our case.
Albeit on a small scale, the investors had the opportunity to provide truly sustainable development in Tanzania and to improve the lives of the poor. They fled the country in 2008 as a result of threats to their lives and the presence of armed bandits on the farms intent on killing them. Benjamin Mengi then invaded the farms, broke into the investors house, arrested the remaining staff and stole what remained of their property. He then cut down all of the trees on the farms.
The lease to the farms is now being offered up to another investor and we are being treated as if the investors never existed in Tanzania.
The corruption is now seemingly supported by the Tanzanian newspaper the Daily News. In the below article printed yesterday and written by Moshi journalist Peter Temba none of the correct facts of the Silverdale farm case are printed and the following salient points omitted from the article:-
The co-operative societies gave there full permission for the assignment of the lease from Fiona Tanzania to Silverdale Tanzania in 2004.
There consent under the lease and the 1999 Land Act was not required.
They entered into a escrow agreement to register the investors interests at the Land registry.
They breached this agreement.
They accepted rent from the investors in 2005
They refused to accept rent from them thereafter, refusing to recognise them as the owners of the lease
They have disregarded every aspect of Tanzanian law and the Tanzanian State has facilitated this abuse
Benjamin Mengi assigned all his interests in this lease in 2004
As such, the co-operative societies had no right to take any legal action ageist him in respect of this lease
The corruption just goes on and on and on…………………………….
Tuesday August 23, 2011
Machame Cooperatives contest timber clearance
From PETER TEMBA in Moshi, 22nd August 2011 @ 12:00, Total
CHAIRMEN of Kyeeri, Uswaa and Mamba Cooperative Societies in
Machame area in Hai district have written a joint letter to the Attorney
General, contesting an order to withdraw a clearance of timber which was
harvested from the societys' farms.
"There is now a dispute over harvested timber held at Bomang'ombe Police
Station. The subject timber was harvested from and belongs to the Societies.
We understand Benjamin Abraham Mengi is now masquerading as owner
thereof and, in fact, your Chambers has issued clearance for their delivery to
The Societies strongly object to their release to Mr Mengi and wish to
rescind the order," reads the letter.
MR Mengi, a Principal shareholder of Fiona (Tanzania) Limited, and the
three Societies, have a chequered history of disputes between them after the
Societies leased Silverdale and Mbono Farms covering an area of 933.1 acres
to Fiona, on January 1, 1999.
However, on February 5, 2010, the Societies issued a notice of termination
of lease agreement over Silverdale and Mbono farms, with certificate of
right of occupancies C.T. No 1412 (767 acres), C.T No 11540 (50 acres), C.T.
No 9640 (52.4 acres), C.T. No 9527 (39.4 acres), C.T. No 9377 (28.4 acres),
C.T. No 9570 (25.4 acres) and C.T. No 9460 (30.5 acres).
The Notice says the termination of the lease was due to fundamental
breaches of the agreement that included non payment of rent due between
2005 and 2009 amounting to or estimated at 87.5m/- plus arrears of the
rent in the sum of 3.2m/- as at 2004, excluding interests and devaluation.
Non compliance with the development plan of reviving and development of
coffee, unauthorized creation of facilities for cattle rearing and breeding as well as failure to formalize a compulsorily registered lease of land were other reasons for termination of the agreement.
Mengi has filed another case alleging that some officials from the three Societies committed a criminal trespass when they entered Silverdale Farm which he claims is his property.
The suspects, who appeared before the court here on August 9, were Denis Swai, Wilson Kundael, Salat Kweka, Wilfred Lema and Michael Mushi.
The case will be mentioned again on September 8.