Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor
ILLEGAL land deals in Chitungwiza have seen some home-seekers invading community soccer pitches and other recreational facilities, with houses being constructed three metres from the grounds’ touch lines.
This comes at a time when Chitungwiza Mayor Councillor Lovemore Maiko, works director David Duma and other council officials have been arrested over illegal land deals.
A playing ground popularly known as Macheka Square in Zengeza 1 area has literally been invaded by illegal settlers and the football teams risk breaking the settlers’ window panes if they play high balls.
Another football ground near Zengeza 3 Shopping Centre is also surrounded by houses with proper documentation, but were built a few metres from the pitch.
Council officials unlawfully sanctioned the sales and received money in respect of the stands that are too close to the pitches.
In St Mary’s area, another playing ground that was known as “Chemhanza” was converted into residential stands years back.
There is no longer any trace of the existence of the football ground as it is now a well-built area.
A sprouting illegal settlement comprising about 70 households has now overshadowed Macheka Square that had been in existence since pre-Independence. Structures are now at different levels of construction, while a few cottages are now complete, with families in occupation.
Investigations by The Herald have established that most of the settlers at Macheka Square invaded the grounds without any legal documents.
Residents have expressed concern over the rampant land grabbing, some with the blessings of council, saying the town had been robbed of recreational facilities and breathing spaces.
A resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “We grew up playing football on this pitch, but the latest land invasions and corrupt land allocations by council have robbed us of the recreational facility.
“It is no longer safe for children or adults to play football here, considering the closeness of the new houses to the grounds.
The Herald learnt that the settlers in question were always at loggerheads with some former councillors and council officials who sought to evict them to pave way for construction of a learning institution on the same “prohibited” piece of land.
One of the settlers, Mr Square Chimwete, said a certain ex-councillor (name supplied) was in the habit of bringing new faces to the grounds, who turn out to be prospective buyers of the land.
Mr Chimwete said the ex-councillor has, on several occasions, threatened them with eviction despite the fact that the land was too close to the football ground.
“We also understand that the ex-councillor sold part of the land to a local college and he wants us evicted as soon as yesterday to accommodate the buyers, although the land is too close to the ground,” he said.
Another ex-councillor once fenced off the controversial land, claiming it was his.
“He came here in 2015 and fenced off the land saying it was his land, and it had been allocated to a certain church,” said one of the settlers.
“We resisted and pulled off the fence, resulting in the politician leaving for good.”
Last week, The Herald witnesses a fleet of vehicles of people touring Macheka Square, including the named councillors’ Toyota SUV vehicle.