The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: 14 000 Houses Face Demolition in Chitungwiza

More than 14 000 residential stands allocated to home seekers in Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural District Council are illegal and the structures built on them should be demolished, a Government audit on illegal structures has established. Of these 8 260 stands are in Chitungwiza, while 6 200 are in Seke communal lands under Manyame Rural District Council and it has emerged that they were allocated on land earmarked for other purposes.

Some of the stands were created on spaces reserved for clinics, churches, schools, cemeteries, recreational activities and roads, while others were created under high voltage electricity pylons.

In Seke rural, some people were allocated stands on grazing lands, wetlands, and other lands not suitable for housing.

The audit team recommended the arrest and prosecution of land barons who are mainly housing co-operatives, councillors and village heads after it emerged that they looted and illegally sold 23 074 stands that did not belong to them, pocketing more than US$20 million.

United We Stand Multi-Purpose Co-operative, which is believed to be run by some councillors and other influential people in Chitungwiza, was singled out as the chief land baron both in Chitungwiza and Seke.

Government assured the families that would be affected that they would be offered alternative land upon being ordered to vacate their stands.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Deputy Minister Biggie Matiza said yesterday that the process was proper and legal.

"I must emphasise that the exercise is well organised, humane, planned and co-ordinated and it respects human rights and the rule of law," he said.

"As a committee, we have recommended that all affected should have somewhere to go and that should silence any fears of so called wanton demolitions.

"We are doing a properly organised exercise that was thoroughly investigated and appropriate recommendations have been given.

"We now eagerly await implementation of these recommendations with lots of enthusiasm. We want to see our urban set up improving."

The audit report and recommendations were handed to Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo who said he would study the document thoroughly and make his recommendations.

"We have just received the report and we want to study it very carefully and determine what recommendations we are going to take, what recommendations we are going to improve on and what recommendations we are going to adjust," he said.

Minister Chombo said by next week, the ministry's position would be ready for implementation and those found to have a case to answer would be prosecuted.

He said investigations on suspended councillor Dr Fradrick Mabamba over allegations of selling land that did not belong to him were under way.

"It is alleged that Dr Mabamba sold land that does not belong to him in Chitungwiza and it is further alleged he also sold lots of land in Seke communal lands that do not belong to him," said Minister Chombo.

"We have suspended him from all council activities so that we can now send a team to investigate the allegations.

"When that is done, we will determine whether he is suitable to be a councillor or not."

Leader of the audit team Mr Ronald Chimowa proposed that Dunnotar Farm, which is near Chitungwiza, should be converted into urban land and allocated to some of the 8 260 affected families from the town,

"Estimation based on town planning standards suggest that the farm could accommodate about 7 800 families, meaning that the balance could be accommodated through replanning of the town itself," he said.

It was the investigating team's finding that wards1,2,3 and 8 of Seke were the hub of illicit land deals and the village heads and councillors had embarked on an operation codenamed "Operation Garawadya" to fatten their pockets through illegal sales of land. In Chitungwiza town near Chibuku Stadium, the land earmarked for construction of a clinic was invaded and turned into residential stands.

In Unit J behind Seke 7 Primary School, residential stands were created and allocated to people on land that was meant for construction of churches.

Near St Mary's Academy in Zengeza 4, housing stands were on land reserved for schools, while in Unit L some stands were created on roads.

In Unit G and Unit P, some houses were built on wetlands, while others were built below high voltage power lines.

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