Housing chaos: Commission of inquiry needed

HOMELESS . . .  A Budiriro family ponders its next move after its home was demolished as Harare City Council seeks to bring sanity to the capital in the wake of a proliferation of shady housing co-operatives

HOMELESS . . . A Budiriro family ponders its next move after its home was demolished as Harare City Council seeks to bring sanity to the capital in the wake of a proliferation of shady housing co-operatives

Robert Zhuwao Special Correspondent

Compassion should come to bear to warrant an exhaustive investigation into events that keep leading to the demolishing of people’s homes. A commission of enquiry headed by a judge, the resident minister, representative organisations in the sector, police, council and government comes to mind.

The ongoing demolitions being carried out by Harare City Council, legal as they may appear, raise more questions than answers.

While on the one hand such a move may have been necessary to deter more construction on the affected areas, the question arises on whether such a move could have been better done.

I am often on social media to connect with relatives, friends and with the global village for my business. The platform serves as a reliable communication channel.

It is no wonder that when I posted my sentiments about the images of the demolitions that have been occurring, responses were varied with opinions, ideas, advice and insults in equal measure.

While most attributed my concerns to the Hatfield demolitions; I was looking at the bigger picture which included the Dema, Chitungwiza, Crowborough and Mufakose areas where I had visited to see the effects of the demolitions.

Also of concern to me were areas that had been earmarked for demolishing covering Gletwyn, Mt Pleasant Heights, Pomona, Belvedere West, Prospect, Mainway Meadows and Ashdown Park if the owners did not regularise their properties.

As things stand, current developments give the notion that indigenisation has failed in the sector.

I am drawn back to 1998 when cases of people losing money to indigenous property developers started surfacing.

Culprits who masterminded the scams and destroyed people’s dreams often got away scot free as the matters were termed civil with the applicants giving up due to the high legal costs. Almost 20 years later, desperate home-seekers still fall prey to the same scourge, coupled with the political sabotage/bickering in the system.

Opposition led councils are accused of deliberately frustrating efforts by perceived ruling party organisations trying to participate in the property development sector; while on the other hand, the councils accuse their superintendent ministry headed by the ruling party of equally trying to frustrate councils’ efforts in urban development. This political, dysfunctional discord is central to the dilemma the housing sector finds itself in.

Thieves with some masquerading as political activists have taken advantage of this fragile relationship to dupe desperate home-seekers of their money. The sheer number of affected homeowners raises a red flag.

Matters to do with construction have a paper trail as various players are involved from town planners, surveyors, architects, builders and allied contractors.

Government and council need to desist from playing politics, come together, follow the paper trail and secure compensation for these families.

If the developer is at fault, let compensation be sought from the developer and if there was collusion, then hold all liable. The two bodies need to demonstrate that they are there to serve the people. For those that invaded the land spaces, it is trespassing; they should have been arrested upon the act.

New legislation needs to be considered to thwart a repeat of similar incidents. Land surveyors, architects, builders need to be found liable should a hand of their services be found in such situations. Confidence for indigenous players in property development needs to be regained if their participation in the industry is to remain relevant.

Events of this magnitude often times have a huge social impact and psychological trauma on the affected families.

Compassion should come to bear to warrant an exhaustive investigation into events that keep leading to the demolishing of people’s homes.

A commission of inquiry headed by a judge, the resident minister, representative organisations in the sector, police, council and Government comes into mind.

Styled along the lines of the Sandura Commission of the late 1980s; closure and reparations can be sought for the victims.

Costs for such a commission need to be self-funded, hence the offending party needs to pay for costs.

Measures to protect the poor and vulnerable are paramount in this regard. Confidence in the capacity of indigenous developers needs to be regained.

The quality, service and standard of indigenous players in business needs introspection by all who call themselves businessmen.

The bar for calling one a businessman needs to be set higher to rid the sector of briefcase businesses, hustlers, conmen, chancers and straight up thieves masquerading as businessmen.

 Robert Zhuwao is a businessman and acting national president of the National Business Council of Zimbabwe (NBCZ). Contact him on [email protected]

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