A standoff between the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and a farmer from Hembe village in Mathioya, Murang’a County has apparently stopped the old man from delivering his tea to the agency, resulting to his farm turning into a forest.
Dismus Mbaria claims that his woes with the agency started in 2008 when he demanded to know the whereabouts of over 80,000 kilogrammes of tea leaves delivered to KTDA and which could not be accounted for.
He is the National Vice-Chairman of the Kenya Union of Small Scale Tea Owners (Kussto) and has been agitating for the rights of tea growers.
He was also the chairman of Hembe Tea Buying Centre before he was removed in an election.
After his removal, Kiru Tea Factory accused him of failing to hand over the books of accounts, some money and a register.
The factory filed a law suit against him at the Nyeri Chief Magistrate’s court seeking orders to compel him to return the books of accounts and a tittle deed.
In a Civil Suit No. 97 of 2014 between Kiru Tea Factory and John Kuhara Gakuo Vs Dismus Mbaria, the court dismissed the suit and observed that the tea factory had not proved that it was the farmer who kept the documents.
The magistrate observed that the plaintiff moved to court seeking orders for delivery of suit property being a cash book, minutes book, register, tittle deed for LR Loc 19/Gacharageini/2515, Sh17,843, general damages for detention and conversion for the said property together with costs, averring that he was the chairman of Hembe tea buying centre and that he was in the custody of the suit property which they alleged he did not surrender after losing his seat.
Mr Mbaria admitted that he was the chairman of the centre but denied being the custodian of the items sought.
The magistrate, while delivering the judgment, said, “I’m left wondering, therefore, who is/was in actual possession of the suit property. Is it the defendant alone or the former officials all together? And even if he was in possession of the same, who was he to hand over to? To the new chairperson or all the committee members?”
“I tend to agree with the defendant in his submissions that whose duty is it to keep the said items. How can it even be proved that that Sh17,843 is in the hands of the defendant? How did the plaintiffs know that the defendant has the money? Can it be proved with certainty that he has the exact amount of money? How did they arrive at the figure? Where was the money kept given that a witness said they don’t have [an] office, so where was the money kept? In a bank account? Is it with the defendant or anyone else?” the magistrate posed.
On the question of the tittle deed, the court ruled that the official search revealed that it was in the hands of the Kiru Tea Factory which was holding trust for Hembe Tea Buying Centre.
“A lot of questions remain unanswered. The plaintiff must not therefore get the orders he is asking without proving the case. It is therefore my finding that the suit fails and the same is dismissed with costs to the defendant,” the judgment read.
However, Mr Mbaria said even after the judgment, he has continued to languish in poverty since he has never received compensation despite writing letters and visiting the offices of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and KTDA.
“I have undergone untold suffering. My 5,500 tea bushes grew into a forest, attracting wild animals who made my only source of livelihood their habitat and attacking my livestock. They have reduced me to a pauper,’ Mr Mbaria told the Nation
The farmer, who is demanding Sh3.5 million from KTDA, claimed his agitation for the rights of tea farmers led to his woes 11 years ago.
“The agency should pay me Sh3.5 million for the loss. The court vindicated me of the charges and this was a clear indication that theirs was malice and destroying my reputation since I was a pastor and I had opened several churches to spread the gospel of Christ,” he sensationally claimed.
But in response, KTDA through the Head of Corporate Affairs Ndiga Kithae, said they are not aware of the compensation claims and that Mr Mbaria’s woes are between him and the buying centre, not the agency.
“KTDA is aware that the Mr Mbaria had been banned from delivering his tea after he failed to surrender the books of accounts but he was later allowed to deliver his produce. It must be understood that the suit was not between KTDA and the farmer but with his tea factory. As for the compensation, we are not aware of the same,” Mr Kithae told the Nation by phone.