Zimbabwe: Land Barons Invade State Land

Land barons took advantage of the 21-day Covid-19 lockdown to invade public land in New Marimba Park, but their illegal structures were swiftly demolished as Harare City Council made it clear that from now on it deals only with individuals on the housing list.

Although the number of people who invaded the land could not be ascertained by the time of going to print, the invasion followed an unsuccessful attempt by a neighbouring housing cooperative to encroach onto the land.

City of Harare spokesperson Michael Chideme confirmed the demolition of the illegal structures and said council did not condone illegal settlements in the city even during the lockdown period.

He said the land in question belonged to council.

"Those people have settled illegally and we think that they take advantage of the lockdown to erect their structures," said Mr Chideme. "Our municipal police and development control personnel have remained at work and we will not tolerate any illegal settlement sprouting even during the lockdown."

Correspondence by New Marimba Housing Consortium showed that they applied for land but their proposal was rejected by council on the grounds that only individuals would now be considered for council land.

In their letter to the council on 18 March 2020, the consortium, represented by its chairman Mr Tsaurai Marima, said: "We implore your council to allocate some of our members on the land next to our project. Some of the stands created are going to use sewer and water (infrastructure) which we have constructed so it will be fair that we get some stands there especially those that link into our pipes."

Responding to the letter, City of Harare Housing and social development director Mr Addmore Nhekairo in a letter dated 26 March, 2020 said that the council had resolved not to deal with housing cooperatives.

"Council does not have provision for group applicants hence to advise your members to be registered on the housing waiting list where they shall be considered together with other applicants for future considerations," he said.

An audit report into Harare land sales by the commission of Inquiry led by Justice Tendai Uchena recently unearthed a litany of illegal sales of public land by prominent politicians.

The majority of other people on the list are leaders of housing cooperatives set up by political heavyweights.

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