Property Owners Face Eviction as Konza Technology City Takes Shape

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Owners of land falling within 10 kilometres from Konza Techno City have one week to demolish unapproved structures in the area or four local authorities will step in and bring down the buildings.

In a notice published on Monday the county councils of Olkejuado and Masaku, Makueni and the Municipal Council of Machakos said developments whose plans have not been approved by the councils, including fencing, would be demolished.

“Any developer who will not have complied with this notice should note that such developments shall be demolished at the owners’ expense,” said the notice.

The notice comes two weeks after President Kibaki officially launched the techno-city and cautioned against uncontrolled developments including informal settlements.

“Shanties have been coming up day and night. Surely we can’t allow that,” Machakos Town Clerk Sheikh Abdullah told the Business Daily on Monday. Other signatory clerks were Olkejuado’s John Gikingo, Frederick Ndede of Makueni and FK Mbiuki of Masaku.

Mr Gikingo on Monday said the developments were alarming enough to warrant the full-page public notice in local dailies.

The government intends to develop Konza as an integrated city with a strong emphasis on ICT and has so far received interest from major global and local companies.

(Read: Global giants line up for slice of Konza city)

Monday’s notice comes after a similar one issued by the Kenya National Highways Authority (KenHa) requiring encroachers to clear from road reserves. Squatters and speculators have been settling on either side of Mombasa Road close to the techno city, including on the road reserves.

During the launch early last month, Mr Kibaki announced the extension the dual carriageway on Mombasa Road to Konza. The dual carriageway currently ends at Athi River.

“We issued the notice in December because we are supposed to protect the road reserve,” said KenHa head of communication Clara Ouko who nevertheless clarified that the measure was meant for the entire length of the Nairobi-Mombasa road.

The government — under the Konza Technopolis Development Order, 2012, which signed into law by President Kibaki in March last year — delineated a 5,000-acre piece of land in Makueni and Machakos counties for constructing the city.

But investors have purchased land around the area and authorities have had to come up with the controlled buffer zone extending to Kajiado County.

The government controversially bought the land at Sh200,000 an acre from Malili Ranching Company but an eighth of an acre is selling far much above that even kilometres away.

Shanties have however become an eyesore with small iron sheet structures springing overnight especially around the State-owned LR 9918/6. The unapproved developments started after the government bought the land from Konza Ranch.

The Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KTDA) Order restricts the authority to supervise developments only within the government land leaving the local authorities to monitor their jurisdictions under Physical Planning Act Cap 286.

The order spells the mandate in clause 8 (b) as “regulate and administer approved activities within the Area (2023.6 hectares)”.

The local authorities have already frozen subdivision of land to control development. 

According to Mr Abdullah, all structures including perimetre fences have to be approved by the relevant local authority. And even old buildings like homes have to be regularised or face the bulldozers.

Most of the old structures are in Konza old town, a colonial-era railway station centre and in nearby Malili town. Mr Abdullar said approved developments including roads and boreholes would be spared. The sparsely populated area is dominated by ranches.

“Water is scarce in Konza and so we welcome boreholes but they should be approved by water authorities,” said Mr Abdullah.

Kenya has so far received commitment from donors for loans to build a multipurpose dam across Thwake River which will greatly improve water supply in the area and support the new city. The project is expected to cost Sh16 billion.

Other infrastructure developments will include the dualling of Nairobi Mombasa Road from Machakos to Konza and construction of an electric train to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This will come on top of the standard gauge railway planned to pass through Konza from Mombasa to Malaba.

The Konza project encompasses four phases and will cost an estimated $8.5 billion. With some estimates putting the job-creation at 200,000 under the Special Economic Zones, some have questioned the rationale of the huge investment.

Kwame Owino of the Institute of Economic Affairs said: “Even allowing for the fact that up to three additional jobs may be created indirectly from each of these high calibre jobs, it is questionable whether this is an appropriate cost relative to alternatives that exist.”

But firms including local ones like Safaricom, Wananchi Online, Kemri, Kari, the University of Nairobi, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and the Nairobi Hospital have been enthusiastic.

Foreign concerns include the fast-growing Chinese Huawei Technologies, Korea electronics giant Samsung and Telemac of the US. Research In Motion (RIM) of Canada, the makers of the Black Berry phone, are also interested according to Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo.

Others are Google, Craft Silicon, Telemax Technology Corporation of Taiwan and Shapoorji Pallonji Group from India. - Business Daily Africa

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