Demolitions: Arrest the land barons first A Harare City Council earthmover destroys a brick-under-tile house built on undesignated land in the capital recently

Edmund Kudzayi Political Mondays
THERE is nothing to applaud when the local authority announces, as it does, with self-congratulatory pomp, that it has demolished houses. It takes very little imagination to hire earthmoving equipment, ask for armed police reinforcements and then unleash dozens of rowdy council enforcers on people whose only crime is falling prey to corrupt land barons working in cahoots with some council officials.

What would be impressive is if the local authority instituted internal investigations and identified council officials responsible for the current mess, fired them and then alerted the police to these acts of fraud.

What often goes unmentioned is that many of the people whose houses are being demolished actually had authorisation from council, or what seemed to be.

Whether or not this is the work of rogue officials is another matter.

What is clear is that no right thinking person would simply wake up and start building a $70 000 house on land they know fully well to be illegal.

Take for instance the infamous Chitungwiza land baron Frederick Mabamba, who is reported to have offered stands that came with council- approved drawings.

He could not have accomplished this elaborate scheme without having co-conspirators inside the local authority.

The problem is there has been no determined effort to hold those responsible for defrauding innocent home-seekers to account.

Far from being lawless criminals, many of the people whose homes have been demolished are actually victims of council corruption and unaccountability.

What is particularly troubling is the glee with which council has gone about these demolitions.

It has not been a hesitant executioner, the tone has been malevolent and spiteful with one senior official boasting they were “assisting” those who built on illegal land to pull down their structures.

Surely there are other potential remedies apart from demolishing homes and throwing families into the cold?

If it is the case that innocent people were misled after corrupt council officials issued documents purporting to show these stands could be built on then the local authority should bear the cost.

If such land cannot be used because it is built under power lines or interferes with critical infrastructure then the local authority must compensate these individuals.

If such land can be used for residential purposes then council must simply count its losses and regularise their occupation of that land.

Anything less would be grossly unfair.

Consider walking into an Econet shop, purchasing a mobile phone only to discover that the device is faulty.

On your return to the shop you are told that Econet is unable to help you because the person that sold you the phone was in fact a rogue employee that sold second hand devices to unsuspecting customers.

This is no different to the current attempt to defraud residents of Crowhill on a grand scale.

We are told that Cephas Msipa’s son sold stands without authorisation from the land owner, Ozias Bvute.

While I find it incredible that the astute Bvute was all this while unaware that his farm was being parcelled out, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

However, if he really has no part in what is clearly a scam then why has he agreed to a cosy out of court settlement with Msipa?

If Msipa indeed sold those stands without the authority of the landowner then he is at the face of it a fraudster and must be reported to the police and imprisoned.

You cannot have your cake and eat it.

It is worrying that despite all the media coverage this story has enjoyed, we have not heard of any investigation by the police into this alleged fraud.

Immediately after his appointment as Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Saviour Kasukuwere vowed to take on land barons and corrupt council officials. That sounds all very well and good but the question is who are these land barons, do they not have names?

Surely if the no-nonsense minister cannot name them what of little Manyenyeni?

We cannot continue speaking in vague and abstract terms when identifiable crimes are being committed.

If Msipa is accused of defrauding thousands of Crowhill residents then why should he not be named and, more importantly, pursued by law enforcement agents?

Our anti-corruption drive sounds rather hollow when this sort of thing is allowed to carry on without arousing any protest from the authorities.


You Might Also Like


Take our Survey

We value your opinion! Take a moment to complete our survey