Swazuri questions legality of his ouster from land agency position

The embattled land agency boss, who is facing corruption charges, has raised questions about his employment.

Muhammad Swazuri (pictured), the chairman of the National Land Commission (NLC), has asked whether a constitutional office holder, who enjoys security of tenure, can be suspended or interdicted on criminal charges.

Prof Swazuri, who was charged alongside 16 others for irregular payment of land for the Standard Gauge Railway project, was released on bond with the condition that he keep away from his office.

Following the strict bail terms, NLC vice chairperson Abigail Mukolwe said she had taken over as acting chairperson. Swazuri has termed this irregular.

“A day after my release on bail, the magistrate ordered that I should not go to my office unless accompanied by a police officer and after consulting with the 'new management'. That order has apparently been translated by the vice chairperson to mean I have been suspended or interdicted,” Swazuri said.

The NLC boss, in a protest letter to the head of the Civil Service, Joseph Kinyua, argued that articles 250 and 251 of the Constitution were clear on the process of appointment and removal/vacancy of the office of chairperson.

The quoted laws state that a commissioner can only leave office through resignation, death or removal by a tribunal.

There has been a precedent where a commissioner is charged but does not leave office. National Police Service Commission member Ronald Musengi continued in office after he was charged with corruption over the sale of Konza City land. Swazuri told Mr Kinyua that his house was raided and he was arrested at 5.05am on August 11. The arresting officer told him he would be arraigned in court on August 13.

He said he asked to be shown the warrant the police were acting on but the more than 21 officers who came to arrest him rejected his request.

At the Integrity Centre Police Station, his advocates requested that he be released on favourable bond terms but Swazuri claimed the officers declined, saying they had strict instructions “from above” to detain him for the weekend.

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