Williamson Tea demands new leases for its vast land – Business Daily
George Williamson House in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Williamson Tea Kenya (WTK) has demanded that the government processes its 99-year land leases, which have been delayed over a decade since constitutional changes replaced the 999-year system with the shorter tenure land titles.
The company, which is foreign-owned by virtue of the majority shareholder, UK-based Ngong Tea Holding that owns a 51.46 per cent stake, said the leases were overdue and should be delivered. WTK manages tea estates covering 5,265 acres in Rift Valley. Leases in Kenya are routinely issued for 99 and 33 years or less depending on location and land use.
All leases of terms longer than 99 years held by non-citizens were automatically converted to 99 years on promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. However, the government is yet to process most of the leases or issue guidelines for notices of expiry to lessees, clarification of the application process, factors to be considered, and timelines for renewal.
“I remind you every year that since August 2010, our freehold titles and 999-year leases were removed and are still to be replaced by the long-promised 99-year leases,” WTK chairman Ezekiel Wanjama wrote in the firm’s latest annual report.
“Yes, land is a very sensitive issue all over the world, however, our track record and contribution to the national revenue, the very visible and successful results of our economic efforts and investment significantly assisting Western Kenya prosperity demand to be heard and taken seriously. The leases should be delivered.”
Business Daily could not reach the National Land Commission chair Gershom Otachi via phone call by the time of going to press but he texted back to communicate that he would look into the matter.
Williamson Tea valued its land and buildings at Sh1.3 billion as of March 2022 according to the company’s annual report. Multinational land holding has come into focus following the recent dispute between minority shareholders of listed Limuru Tea over the sale of a majority stake by Unilever to US private equity fund CVC Capital Partners.