The Government will deal ruthlessly with land barons and assist more than 10 000 families that were illegally settled in Mutare, Rusape and Chipinge in Manicaland province over the past two decades.
In a no-holds-barred meeting in Mutare yesterday, National Housing and Social Amenities Minister, Daniel Garwe, blasted local authorities for fuelling most of the illegal settlements by failing to come up with physical plans for housing development.
"We have no apologies to make when it comes to dealing with land barons going forward," he said.
"We want to clean up Mutare, which used to be a very beautiful city. I remember when we were young we used to see Mutare as a city of rock and roll. Now it is the city of pit latrines and open wells. We must stop this. Let us not apologise for protecting wrong people. Let us do what is right. Let us protect the general public, the 10 000 people who are now desperate and need decent accommodation."
Minister Garwe said land barons and leaders of housing co-operatives must come up and assist Government to set things straight.
"If co-operative leaders and land barons resist our call to come up and solve this mess, we will confront them head on," he said.
"We need to clean up our beautiful cities. I understand Rusape is growing without any planning. Someone just wakes up and says he is building his house here. That is not it, let us put a lid on such things and stop issuing out land to land barons."
He said all land belongs to the State and Government will deal with anyone who abuses it.
Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba said they were having problems with the Gimboki and Federation housing schemes in Mutare and the illegal allocation of stands in Chipinge.
"In Gimboki South and Federation housing schemes people are building structures everywhere on undeveloped land. There is no road network, there is no electricity and there is no water to the extent that residents are fetching water from wells.
"This poses a real danger for water-borne diseases. We have tried to find solutions to these illegal settlements, but up to now there has been no headway because of double and triple stand allocations. In Chipinge, some youths were made to join a housing scheme, which never produced anything."
Dr Gwaradzimba said illegal and unplanned settlements were a problem in the province as people were settling themselves anywhere.
"There is need for you Cde Garwe to read the riot act, especially to both rural and urban local authorities, so that we come up with planned settlements. People cannot just build as they please."
Mutare Town Clerk, Mr Joshua Maligwa, said council was failing to solve the Gimboki and Federation issues.
"These settlements are now eating into our budget because we supply water there and maintain roads, yet we are not collecting anything," he said.
"The Gimboki issue must be brought to its logical conclusion. The Federation Housing Scheme issue has also turned political. As a city, our hands are tied and we need political intervention."