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Land And Corruption Unmitigated Chaos, Planning Armageddon

By Shingirai Vambe

Shelter being every human’s right, the demolition of houses has grown over time. Issuing of prohibition orders has also taken precedence in most local authorities. As people scramble for land to build houses and develop businesses and recreational facilities for profit making, access to land and its use has been marred by corruption, The Post has learnt.

Often times an execution order of eviction and demolition is granted, citizens have nowhere to go or even claim compensation with allegation that the planning and layout plans for proposed projects have been corruptly processed and later turned down after investigations at the expense of home seekers.

Access to land in urban cities has been a challenge resulting in private developers eyeing vast pieces of land which used to be farms, proximity to service towns, they develop, service and resale to home seekers.

Out of a good initiative, some have taken advantage of unsuspecting home seekers, defrauding them of their hard-earned money by failure to provide necessary documentation and requirements from the planning authorities and or council.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission together with the Transparency International Zimbabwe joined forces and organized the Land and Corruption conference where they invited civic society organizations, local authorities from the Northern region, Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural development, Parliament, Harare City Council, Zimbabwe Human Right Commission and Residents Trusts.

Mayor for Harare City Council, Jacob Mafume told delegates that there is conflict between residents, local authorities and the government. Mafume said politicians and those connected to politicians are always to blame as they identify land, use their proximity to the governing party and or power to amass vast pieces of land for purposes of profiteering.

“We have asked for permission to reposes that which belong to Harare City then administer those properties and resources, for the benefit of the town and development,” Mafume said.

He further stated the need for a master plan which the Government is pushing all local authorities to acquire, for easy identification of land size, population and service required. Interestingly, only Bulawayo had an existing master plan in Zimbabwe, which is currently being revised to match the current development

The high demand of land has forced government to look into the implementation of the National Development Strategy 1 with the climate change policy where people are going to settle and develop. However, access to land is the question, and how it is acquired, which the Anti-Corruption Commission said they have investigated and issued warrant of arrests of local authority personnel and land barons.

Surprisingly, one would build his or her house, submitting and taking stage forms to council, paid and signed, and the same council comes to demolish the same house they inspected if the standard building procedures were being followed.

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee member for the Ministry of Lands, Hon Stanely Sakupwanya responded and said there is great appetite for money by Land and space barons, and the next generation will have nothing to secure or shelter of their own if the authorities don’t nip the bud.

He said the government through the ministry of lands in partnership with Chipinge Town Council have secured land for the youths which they will flexibly pay for development of residential houses.

“There is nothing for free, we should pay, and for youths we wrote a position paper, citing how youths are getting money and proposed to have flexible payment methods for them so that they can also own land, otherwise at this rate which space barons are moving, youths will not get nothing,” added Sakupwanya.

Midlands State University Lecturer, Dr Chakunda said 90 percent of underground water in Harare has been contaminated by poor and improper settling structures by land barons and private developers including those doing mining activities across the country.

“Gweru is operating without a functional sewer treatment plant, there is a pure discharge of raw sewer into Gweru River explaining the damaged irrigation system downstream because of sewer into the irrigation pumps, bad part of this crisis, is having a septic tank, soaker ware and a borehole few meters away, resulting to the contamination of water,” explained Chakunda.

He further highlighted the need for engagement with politicians on the basis of scientific evidence so that they answer to real questions to do with planning, research and reports by scholars.

However, the Mayor highlighted the gaps that do exist in the By-laws and the constitution which affect their execution of duties, lest they are arrested for abuse of office.

ZACC Commissioner, Thandiwe Mlobani said her organization has and is investigating land and corruption related cases with some having taken to the prosecuting authority. She said according to their statistics report, Harare has more cases than any other province in Zimbabwe.

Commissioner Gabriel Chaibva said he has been on the Harare City Council waiting list for the past 44 years.

“It is part of the council budget for their leisure trip and other things, funds from home seekers wanting to be on the waiting list and never to be offered or called for an interview for a stand, rather the corrupt with money are offered and able to pay for stands of their choices across the country,” Chaibva said.

Bulawayo based, Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe, Dr Malinga said the difference between Bulawayo and Harare is that people from Matebeleland have a conscience. After 1980 politicians focused on building a state instead of building a nation exposing failure and lack of knowledge and running of institutions from the Rhodesian Government.

Largely, accessing land, be it agriculture/farming land, residential/housing stands lack transparency and accountability in Zimbabwe, having a land audit report which was never made available for public scrutiny, with most towns now no longer have available land for expansion, farms near urban centers are being taken for urban expansion, however, the expansion has been overtaken by private developers charging handsome money, duping unsuspecting home seekers.