Zimbabwe: New Policy Shuts Out Land Barons

Assistant Editor

Land barons have now been cut out of Harare's housing programme, with council determined to allocate serviced land only, preventing anyone from seizing unserviced land and seeking later regularisation.

Once the new Human Settlements Policy is approved by the appropriate organs within council, the city will only deal with competent land developers when council land is concerned.

The developed council land will then be allocated to deserving residents following proper procedures, including insistence that all potential buyers must be on the housing waiting list.

Harare has been invaded by land barons, who use the same tactic of identifying idle council land, and then seek regularisation after selling stands and settling people.

But the thrust of the new policy is moving away from the sole purpose of providing housing, to settlement, where the council land should be properly serviced with all services such as roads, sewers, water supply and power lines before allocation of stands.

The Human Settlements Policy, which has reportedly irked land barons who are trying hard to discredit it, was crafted after thorough public consultations with residents and other stakeholders in the city.

Harare City Council principal housing officer Mr Edgar Dzehonye told The Herald yesterday that the new policy basically outlawed the allocation of unserviced council land.

"We have to allocate serviced land only and we will not be dealing with land barons. So the policy essentially closes out land barons," he said.

"Land barons have been thriving on the allocation of unserviced land. These people would occupy council land illegally in anticipation of being regularised and that gave council serious headaches in terms of dealing with them. This new policy is saying 'let's deal with competent land developers and develop land', then we allocate serviced land."

Mr Dzehonye said it was not necessary for land barons to identify council land since the council was aware of its land bank and does not need to be assisted by private citizens to find out what land it owns.

"We are closing space for land barons. Before settling people, the entire settlement must have all the adequate services and we can only have that when we are dealing with professional and competent developers."

The proposed policy recognises that challenges across the land development value chain have arisen from lack of enforcement of land use development control, culminating in substandard settlements with inadequate infrastructure services mushrooming across the city.

In case there are private developers keen to implement housing schemes, they will first have to demonstrate their ability to implement them, according to the policy.

They should also submit a detailed business proposal detailing a number of issues, including the size and number of stands, the beneficiaries, project funding mechanisms and their expertise in developing land.

Through the policy, the Harare City Council will devise strategies on land acquisition, making it difficult for individuals like land barons to claim land.

Communities and residents will be involved in land planning and development of settlements, with the backing of clear and legally enforceable instruments of land delivery and administration.

The city will maintain updated databases of settled land by use category, and the owners and users. Regular audits will check land use efficiencies and make appropriate policies that encourage efficient and equitable land markets.

The policy is in line with the Constitution, which calls for the State and all institutions and agencies of Government at every level in formulating and implementing laws and policy decisions that lead to the establishment, enhancement and promotion of a sustainable, just, free and democratic society in which people enjoy prosperous, happy and fulfilling lives.

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