Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
Harare City Council has clashed with Southerton residents over its decision to turn a once thriving recreational park into residential stands. The local authority has turned Gilwell Square, along Bexley Road, into at least 29 low- density stands which have since been pegged despite residents’ objections.
A site visit by this publication showed that the pegging process was already underway, with trees being felled. A church has started operating at the recreational park.
Southerton residents have since approached council, Government and the Office of the President and Cabinet to block the move but to no avail.
Zanu-PF shadow legislator for Southerton constituency Cde Andrew Makahamadze raised the red flag over the development.
“We smell a rat over the turning of a recreational centre into stands. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission should investigate the issue as council officials are fingered in the messy deal. These are the people that are holding the country to ransom,” he said.
One of the concerned residents, Mr Richard Jack, expressed displeasure over the council’s decision to parcel out stands on a recreational place which is equally serving as a breathing space.
“I started residing in the area in 1982 and my kids used to play in the recreational park while it still had swings, rocking horses and a merry go round, but now it is pegged for stands. However, the facilities became a white elephant over the years due to council’s negligence.
“All of a sudden we were surprised to realise that council was selling the land we rushed to object, but it proceeded with its plans. Last week they came and pegged the area despite a directive from Government for them to stop,” he said.
According to a letter written to the Department of Physical Planning in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing dated November 28, 2018 residents actually demanded for more breathing spaces.
“Southerton is in the middle of a heavy industrial area in Harare and therefore is already under immense pollution pressure. It therefore stands that the need for open green spaces is of paramount importance in the area opposed to reducing such spaces,” reads part of the letter.
The Office of the President and Cabinet in a letter dated December 14, 2018 advised the Secretary for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to investigate the issue.
The letter was written prior to the appointment of Minister of Harare Metropolitan Affairs Cde Oliver Chidawu whom they also aproached over the issue.
“I note from the copy of objection letter that Mr Jack raised a number of pertinent issues relating to the subject matter. As the office of the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Harare Metropolitan province we wish to kindly request you, Sir, to urgently investigate and furnish us with a comprehensive report on the matter,” reads part of the letter.
Harare Mayor Herbert Gomba yesterday justified council’s move of turning the recreational park into stands.
“In terms of the Regional Town and Country Planning Act, council reserves the right to change reservations or use land and will do that in consultation with the residents who are asked to object within a specific period.
“Those areas were left by the then planners for future use. They are open in order to accommodate future plans. This is why you see dualisation being done because land was left open in anticipation of the need to accommodate future growth. There is nothing criminal about that. It is called urban planning. We are now in the future,” he said.