The order by the Kajiado County government to shut down Tata Chemicals depot in Magadi, in a dispute over Sh17 billion unpaid land rates, is worrying.
The move to close the factory has the potential to erode the county’s image, and even that of the country, as an investment destination.
It is still possible to resolve the dispute in less dramatic and less drastic ways.
Denying the company the opportunity to do business is unhelpful and only makes the situation worse.
More than 70 people are employed at the depot, which also serves as a railway sub-station. The closure would mean loss of jobs for the employees and loss of livelihoods for their dependents. It also translates to lost revenue that the county receives in taxes from the company.
Notwithstanding the negative impact of the order, this is not to say that the company is not without blame. All businesses have an obligation to be conscientious corporate citizens. Governor Joseph ole Lenku has accused Tata Chemicals of ignoring the county laws and the Mining Act (2016). This should be examined objectively.
The issues on either side are weighty and it is only fair that the parties come to the negotiation table and find ways to resolve them amicably.
and if it is found that the company has flouted the laws, steps should be taken to ensure that all the laws are adhered to.
While the company has the obligation to comply with the county laws, as does everyone else, it is not in their interests to declare, in public, that it will not be paying the due rates even if it considers them as punitive. The best option would be to use legal means to challenge the tax demands.