Rep charged with assault over Nzambani rock dispute

The local community and family of Kyale Mwendwa have been mired in dispute over ownership of the Nzambani rock site.

Wednesday March 9 2016

The Nzambani rock in Kitui County that is now at the centre of a land ownership dispute pitting the local community and Mr Kyale Mwendwa's family.  PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Nzambani rock in Kitui County that is now at the centre of a land ownership dispute pitting the local community and Mr Kyale Mwendwa's family. PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By THOMAS WAITA
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Kitui County Assembly Member for Nzambani Ward Robinson Mutwii Mativo was Wednesday arraigned in court and charged with assault and destruction of property.

Before Chief Magistrate Maryanne Murage, the MCA was, in the first count, accused of assaulting Mr Nzuki Kimanzi, injuring him in the process.

In the second count, Mr Mativo was charged jointly with others not before the court of wilfully and unlawfully vandalising property of Mr Mumo Mwendwa valued at Sh20,000.

The accused reportedly committed the offences at Nzambani Rock Development site in Nzambani Sub-county, Kitui County, on September 2, 2015 at around midday.

Mr Mativo denied the charges and was released on a cash bail of Sh10,000.

The case will be heard on July 6.

Speaking to journalists after leaving the court, Mr Mativo said he was innocent and was confident the judicial process will be fair to him.

“I am sure this is a political witchhunt meant to bar me from voicing the interests of my constituents. I believe the court will establish the truth and clear my name so that I can continue serving my people without undue interference,” said the ward rep.

A section of opposition MCA led by Kitui County Assembly Minority Leader Alex Nganga pledged to stand by the accused ward rep during his trial.

Nzambani MCA Mutwii Mativo (right) with Kitui County Assembly Minority Leader Alex Nganga address the media on March 9, 2016. Mr Mativo was charged with assault and vandalism committed at the Nzambani rock site on September 2, 2015. PHOTO | THOMAS WAITA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Nzambani MCA Mutwii Mativo (right) with Kitui County Assembly Minority Leader Alex Nganga address the media on March 9, 2016. Mr Mativo was charged with assault and vandalism committed at the Nzambani rock site on September 2, 2015. PHOTO | THOMAS WAITA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

NZAMBANI ROCK DISPUTE

The family of Kyale Mwendwa, the proprietor of Nzambani Rock Development Company Limited, and the local community have been mired in an ownership dispute over the Nzambani rock site.

The defunct Kitui County Council leased the site of the rock to Mr Mwendwa’s company in 2004 for 99 years.

The private developer is said to have been granted the lease after making commitment to develop the land and initiate projects that would aid in marketing the area as a major tourist attraction site.

The accused MCA had on February 11, 2015 tabled a motion to pushing the revocation of the company’s lease before the Kitui County Assembly. The motion was passed but it has not been implemented.

In the motion, the developer was accused of failing to construct ten cottages at the site, establish a reliable water supply and install electricity in a bid to attract tourism revenue meant for funding local development projects.

Mr Mativo’s motion indicated that the developer infringed on the lease agreement after failing to pay annual Sh10,000 land rates between 2007 and 2012.

On September 2 last year, local residents assembled at the foot of the rock threatening to invoke the wrath of God upon the developer if the lease was not revoked and ownership transferred to the community.

“We are going to perform traditional rituals to summon our deities to help us reclaim the 'community-owned’ physical feature as well as punish those involved in 'grabbing’ our rock,” threatened Mr Joseph Ndava, a local elder during the protest.

Mr Ndava said the community were the rightful owners of the historical site and were tired of the “sluggish” legal process undertaken by the county government to repossess the rock from the private developer.

Contacted for comment by Nation, the private developer Mr Mumo Mwendwa said the community had no grounds to claim the rock was “snatched” from them since it was legally leased to his family by the local authority.

“My family has not wronged Nzambani locals in any way and there is no need for them to feel aggrieved and resort to curse threats,” Mr Mwendwa said.

Mr Mwendwa said that his family purchased three plots at the base of the rock in 1999 before acquiring the lease for the rock in 2004.

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