The interdicted commissioner for land registration in the Lands ministry, Ms Sarah Kulata, was on Thursday quizzed over fraudulent allocation of Nakasero primary and Kololo secondary schools playgrounds to private developers. She appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters chaired by Court of Appeal Judge Catherine Bamugemereire. The commission lead counsel Ebert Byenkya interviewed Ms Kulata.
Byenkya: Please state your name in full.
Kulata: Sarah Kulata Basangwa.
Byenkya: How old are you?
Kulata: I am 56 years old.
Byenkya: Where do you live?
Kulata: I live in Muyenga B, Zone 9.
Byenkya: What do you do for a living?
Kulata: I am a civil servant.
Byenkya: In which capacity are you serving?
Kulata: I am the commissioner for land registration but I am currently on leave.
Byenkya: How long have you served as commissioner for land registration?
Kulata: Since December 1, 2007.
Byenkya: Have you been in that position before that time?
Kulata: I first acted as acting commissioner and in December 2007, I was confirmed around 2010. As a registrar of titles since 1985.
Byenkya: The commission invited you to provide some evidence regarding certain transactions. Which properties?
Kulata: Plot 34A and 37 Kyaddondo Road, Plot 5C Mackinnon Road, Plot 8-12 Saadi Lawe and Plot 60-68 Lugogo Bypass.
Byenkya: Let us start with Plot 60-68 Lugogo Bypass. What can you tell us about that property?
Kulata: From the records that I could lay my hands on, I have gathered that initially the school recreational ground was Plot 60-68 Lugogo Bypass Road.
Byenkya: How was it registered?
Kulata: I believe it is registered by Uganda Land Commission (ULC). I did not manage to get a copy of the land title but I am aware that ULC has a title covering many plots in Kampala.
Byenkya: I am going to show you a title and see if you can recognise it. Can you just read the particulars of the title I am showing you?
Kulata: It is freehold register Volume Folio 20, it was issued in September 1962 Under the Public Land Ordinance, the land in the Kyaddondo County, Mengo District in Buganda Province in reference to two areas; 41 -59 Lugogo Bypass and Plot 60 – 68 Lugogo Bypass.
Byenkya: Who is the registered proprietor?
Byenkya: Can you turn to the encumbrance’s page?
Kulata: The user is restricted to the Ministry of Education and Sports (Kololo Secondary School).
Byenkya: What does that mean?
Kulata: Which means that the user is restricted to Ministry of Education and Sports (Kololo Secondary School. It is a condition. At the time of entering, it was registered as a condition.
Byenkya: As a registrar, what is the difference between an encumbrance and a condition?
Kulata: Both have an effect on a title. An encumbrance is registered as an instrument whereas a condition becomes part and partial of the title.
Byenkya: Would that mean that if that title was sub-divided, the title would move with the condition?
Kulata: It depends on the circumstances that the sub-division is being made.
Byenkya: Can you explain that?
Kulata: It is important to know how that condition was put there because it was put there at the time of registration of the title and until I look at the document by which this condition was inserted...
Byenkya: Have you seen that (freehold) title before?
Kulata: Most probably I have seen it because I am the one who registered that condition. That is my signature. It is a time when I was still acting commissioner-land registration.
Byenkya: What period of time do you think it could have been?
Kulata: It must have been December 1, 2007, to 2010.
Byenkya: Kololo Secondary School is complaining about this land, that it is land that has been sub-divided without their knowledge over a period of time. They say issues started around 2001 and it used to be a big piece of land. Can you tell us the size of this freehold Volume 219 Folio 20.
Kulata: My lord, if I can have a copy… The area is not indicated on the title. I noticed that sometime before September 2007, Plot 60 was carved off this land
Byenkya: When was it carved off?
Kulata: I don’t know when exactly it was carved off but I came across a title which was a result of sub-dividing of Plot 60 and this title was issued on September 11, 2007, registered in Kensington Africa Ltd.
Byenkya: How big is that land?
Kulata: The one I have come across is Plot 60F measuring 0.037 hectares. There are a number of plots issued. That means it was Kensignton Africa Ltd who was the registered proprietor who sub-divided it.
Byenkya: Under what circumstances? Was that a freehold given to Kensington Africa Ltd?
Kulata: It is a leasehold from February 1, 2006, for 99 years.
Byenkya: If it is a lease, would it be a sub-division or it be simply a title that would be registered under the title I showed you?
Kulata: It was a lease out of that which is owned by ULC.
Byenkya: Was there another freehold title that was registered in the names of ULC when you are talking about sub-division?
Kulata: The (freehold) title for ULC remains intact as a freehold. It was never carved out but a lease was registered.
Byenkya: Shouldn’t the lease be registered on the title?
Kulata: Ideally it should but sometime in the land registration process, there was a breakdown in record keeping from around the 1970s and there was a lapse in registering those encumbrances on the parent title of ULC.
Byenkya: When there is a lapse in registering an encumbrance, Is it not potentially catastrophic for a lease to be created and not reflected on the freehold?
Kulata: It may be, but it may not be catastrophic.
Byenkya: Does it open the door to double interests that are not discoverable by a search?
Kulata: At times it has opened the door, but not necessarily.
Byenkya: For example, in this case, the user beneficiary Kololo SS never got to know until one day they were confronted with the lawyer’s letter with a title to effect that the land had gone.
Kulata: Which particular land?
Byenkya: Kensington Africa Ltd, which we are talking about. They never got to know until they were trying to carry out some activities on the land and they were threatened with a law suit and the law firm presented a certificate of title from the commissioner for land registration and building plans.
Would that have happened if the original freehold title had been called for so that this encumbrance could be registered on the lease?
Kulata: By the time Kensington Africa Ltd got the title, this condition was not noted on the title. This condition was noted much later.
Byenkya: Who issued that title to Kensington Africa Ltd?
Kulata: The registrar of titles by then called Muhereza.
Byenkya: And you said that condition was entered in 2007?
Kulata: That condition must have been entered from December 2007 because that is when I was promoted to act as commissioner (land registration).
Byenkya: And as you said at that time, the freehold title was intact and didn’t reflect any encumbrances other than that condition?
Kulata: From the copy you have given me, yes.
Byenkya: How did the giveaways happen on school land and it was being used as a play field?
Kulata: From the information that I managed to get, I noticed that as at July 12, 2007, the school recreational ground was plotted as Plot 62 – 68 Lugogo Bypass Road. This is seen from the deed plan I extracted on Plot 60F.
Byenkya: How did this plotting happen? How could land registered in somebody’s [name] be plotted without their involvement?
Kulata: The commissioner for surveys and mapping would be the best person to answer that because he is the one who gives plot numbers but plot numbers are issued upon either a sub-division, a cut off, a realignment,
Byenkya: How about if it is a lease, would there be a new plot number?
Kulata: if the lease is for part, there would be new plot numbers.
Bamugemereire: Before the plot numbers are issued, who causes the mutation?
Kulata: Commissioner of surveys and mapping.
Byenkya: In 2007, Plot 60 goes to Kensington Africa Ltd but we would like to know how Kensington Africa Ltd got the lease.
Kulata: I didn’t get the information because I was summoned late.
Byenkya: If there is a re-plotting, shouldn’t the original title be recalled and changed?
Kulata: Sometime in the 1970s, there was a lapse regarding ULC registering encumbrances on their titles but over time we were trying to rectify that
Byenkya: Are there other titles issued apart from that of Kensington Africa Ltd?
Byenkya: Why was there no attempt to call the original title on the several occasions so that rectifications can be made? And this has left the school under the impression that they have a title to all the land, whereas not.
Kulata: The title is in the names of ULC
Byenkya: Yes, but with a clear condition that places the school as a beneficial to the title.
Kulata: They are users of the land.
Byenkya: Tell us about other titles.
Kulata: Plot 62 was carved off and leased to Dr David Lwanga for five years, now extended to 99 years from November 13, 2008, by ULC and I issued that title.
Byenkya: I have seen titles like the one we have had today issued to Kampala Parents School but we have not seen any reference to the freehold register number in that title. Do the ones, you issued have a freehold register number?
Kulata: It does not but it has a ULC number and a file reference number and it is normally at the extreme top.
Byenkya: How does a ULC number help me when I am doing a search on the title?
Kulata: That is the root of the title.
Bamugemereire: What is the root of the title? The FRV number or the ULC number?
Kulata: The ULC number has the information on the title…
Bamugemereire: What is the root of the title actually? What identifies the title? Is it a ULC or an FRV number?
Kulata: There are various ways in ascertaining the root of the title.
Byenkya: After Plot 62, which was the next one?
Kulata: Plots 2-6, 8-12, 14-18, 20-22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32-34 Saad Lawe.
Byenkya: Do you have titles for those?
Kulata: I have some.
Byenkya: Can you share with us the ones for Saad Lawe?
Kulata: Plots 2-6 Saad Lawe, which was a lease of five years from March 2010 in favour of Karahari Investments, have a title and I issued that title but I am not sure of the status.
Byenkya: You issued a number of these titles, I am just wondering if that condition registered on the freehold title was ever registered on these leases?
Kulata: It was not because I don’t think by that time these titles were issued, that condition had been noted in the register.
The land probe commission
The Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters was appointed by President Museveni in December 2016. The seven-member commission is headed by Court of Appeal judge, Catherine Bamugemereire.
The commission is inquiring into the effectiveness of law, policies and processes of land acquisition, land administration, land management and land registration in the country.
Its secretariat is at the National Records Centre and Archives under the Ministry of Public Service in Wandegeya, Kampala.
Justice Bamugemereire is working alongside other commissioners such as former Mengo minister Robert Ssebunnya, Ms Mary Oduka Ochan, Ms Joyce Gunze Habaasa, Dr Rose Nakayi, former Attorney General Fredrick Ruhindi and Mr George Bagonza Tinkamanyire.
The support team include Ms Olive Kazaarwe Mukwaya (commission secretary), Dr Douglas Singiza (assistant secretary in charge of research), Mr Ebert Byenkya (lead counsel) and Mr John Bosco Rujagaata Suuza (assistant lead counsel).