Kiambu and Murang’a counties which are embroiled in a land lease row with Del Monte Kenya Ltd have claimed the company is not beneficial to the local community.
Murang’a County, through lawyer David Mereka, and Kiambu County, through lawyer Geoffrey Kiugu, on September 28, 2015 told Mr Justice Joseph Onguto that Del Monte’s corporate social responsibility claim is inaccurate because facts on the ground point to a serious negative impact.
Lawyer Mereka said that there are poor working and living conditions of the workers, intimidation of trade unions, no locals are employed in senior positions in addition to large wage and remuneration difference between local and expatriate workers.
“Del Monte is a foreign company registered at the New York Stock Exchange and has no single local shareholder from the county,” explained lawyer Mereka.
He said Murang’a people continue to wallow in poverty over 50 years after independence due to lack of land and benefit sharing of the natural resources in the county which are being exploited by multinational companies whose only purpose is the element of profit and nothing else.
The Kiambu County government also associated itself with these arguments.
DECLINED TO EXTEND LEASE
Del Monte filed an urgent application two weeks ago at the Constitutional Division of the High Court alleging that the two counties have declined its request to have its leases extended thus threatening its multi-billion shillings investment and putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The company has pineapple farming as its principal business and owns a large parcel of land which extends between Murang’a and Kiambu counties.
The firm claims Murang’a County had demanded that it surrenders a large chunk of land as a pre-condition for renewal of the lease.
However, lawyer Mereka said that there has been no violation of Del Monte’s constitutional rights given that the county is merely involved in negotiations with respect to the company’s application for renewal of leases that expire in 2022, for its land in Murang’a.
The lease in relation to the land in Kiambu expires in 2019.
The negotiations and requests by Murang’a County, he said, do not amount to violation of Del Monte’s constitutional rights.
“And in any event, it is blatant intimidation by Del Monte’s advocate to send their demand letter on August 20, and expect the county would reply within seven days on behalf of the people of Murang’a while well knowing that the said leases do not expire until 2022,” lawyer Mereka explained.
Del Monte, through lawyer Njoroge Regeru, said that the law provides on how land should be taken for public use adding that there is a deliberate attempt especially by some politicians in the two counties to discriminate against multinationals which they have found to be an easy target.
“The fact that some companies are multinational does not mean that they don’t have right over land. They too have a right to have their land leases renewed,” Mr Regeru said.
He added that they want a three-judge bench appointed to hear and determine their application which he said raises constitutional issues.
Mr Mereka, however, said that the firm has not produced any evidence of discrimination or otherwise with respect to the alleged unequal treatment of other land users.
Murang’a and Kiambu counties also urged the court to refer the matter to the Environment and Lands Court because the issues is dispute relates to land use.
The judge will deliver a ruling on October 1, 2015 on whether the matter will be taken to the environment court.