Taita Taveta authorities seek protection to collect tax at Mtito

Taita Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime. Taita Taveta claims Mtito Andei and Mackinnon Road townships and seeks to collect taxes there. [Robert Menza, Standard]

The Taita Taveta county government has moved to the High Court in Mombasa to seek police assistance to secure lives and property of traders at the disputed Mtito-Andei township on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway.

Dozens of traders from Taita Taveta operating in the town had closed shops over what they claimed as an insecure environment to conduct business.

Lands executive Elizabeth Mkongo, County Attorney John Mwakio and county director of revenue Simon Irina said traders are being harassed by Makueni county authorities hence the need to seek police intervention through the court.

Irina said there are more than 600 traders from the region conducting business in the town but their security has become a major concern due to frequent raids of their shops and confiscation of their properties by Makueni authorities, a claim that had not been substantiated at the time of going to press.

“We are going back to court this week to seek police intervention. Our traders are suffering, and Makueni authorities have become hostile due to frequent raids, confiscation and detention of their properties.

“We are also going to seek action against Makueni and Kwale county governments for contempt of court for failing to adhere to the earlier High Court ruling that authorised the county to be the sole collector of revenue at Mtito Andei and Mackinnon Road townships,” Mwakio said.

He warned: “We have been visiting and in constant contact with traders in the town who have complained of being subjected to frequent harassment and detention of their properties by the neighbouring authorities. We are going to court to defend our people’s rights.”

The township is at the centre of a row between Taita Taveta and Makueni, with the former saying it was part of its jurisdiction and hence should be allowed to collect taxes from traders.

Taita Taveta also claims Mackinnon Road township in Kwale county and seeks to collect taxes there.

Mkongo said they had raised the matter at a consultative meeting with National Land Commission chairperson Gershom Otachi in Nairobi where the three counties met last Friday.

She confirmed that senior officials from the three warring counties held a consultative meeting with the chairperson but did not reach a consensus on the boundary dispute.

Mkongo said officials from Makueni and Kwale counties told Otachi, who chaired the meeting, that they had not been served with the court ruling that authorised Taita Taveta to start collecting revenue in the two towns.

“The NLC ordered Makueni and Kwale counties to obtain the high court ruling and make their submission on March 23 so as to find a way forward to the boundary dispute,” said the county executive.

Mkongo said they had served the two administrative units with High Court orders and accused them of playing politics.

“Makueni and Kwale know the two towns belong to Taita Taveta, and that is why they are trying to dilly-dally on the issue but the truth of the matter will soon come out,” the executive said yesterday.

As the controversy of the boundary rages on, the Taita Taveta county government has deployed 11 revenue officers to start collecting cess at Mtito Andei Township amid resistance from the Makueni government.

Irina said the revenue officials have been inducted and are ready to do their work.

“We have internally trained the new workers who are residents of Mtito Andei what is required of them.”