NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 29 – There was drama at the controversial Taj Mall in Embakasi, when the National Land Commission Chairperson Mohammed Swazuri met the owner of the property early on Friday afternoon.
While Rajesh Gorasia, the owner of the multi-billion property demanded an assurance that it will not be demolished, Swazuri asked him to use a section of the mall since the Kenya Urban Roads Authority “does not need it for now.”
Though Swazuri had told journalists that only 20 percent of the mall was on public land, the owner startlingly disputed this saying: “In fact it is 50 to 60 percent,” resulting in a heated exchange.
“Our determination is very clear, the Kenya Urban Roads Authority has told us that for the time being they would not require this portion of land that is touching on the road reserve,” he stated.
Though the commission is the custodian of public land, Swazuri says KURA has written to the commission indicating that it is not using the two acre parcel of land for now, which has since been gazetted as public land.
The owner says he is willing to forfeit the building on a condition that he will be compensated to the tune of Sh5.5 billion, the current value of the property and the loss he has made since the controversy started.
“I am a bonafide buyer of this property and I still think that government should not object to this project…the issue was that whether was this is public land or not. I have all the documentation which Mr Chairman can confirm,” he asserted.
“If you cut the mall, we will be having a man without a head. As an innocent purchaser, I should not be punished.”
The affected part is the main section of the expansive mall which has elevators.
The developer was even willing to strike a deal with the government; they take up the building and rent it to him so that he can “at least” recover his money.
He said he was struggling to service a Sh500 million loan, which he had acquired during the construction of the mall.
The National Land Commission has since revoked the title deed but a toned down Mohammed has asked the owner to apply for regularization of his ownership documents to avoid demolition in future.
It is not clear whether the mall is going to be demolished but Swazuri says if KURA claims their section, a larger part of the mall, which is sitting on a 3.7 acres piece of land will be cut off, but he could not explain whether his move was legally binding.
Gorasia had bought two plots in the area in 1995, which were amalgamated, so that he can acquire one title deed and develop it.