Mukudzei Chingwere and Talent Chimutambgi
Demolitions of houses built illegally on private land in Harare south started yesterday and the Government will now be targeting unapproved and illegal settlements set up by land barons, with regularisation only an option for some built earlier on.
A few properties in the new Retreat suburb in Waterfalls were demolished yesterday as they were illegally built on private land owned by Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa, and were not part of a Government drive.
But National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe said all houses built on illegally allocated public land will also be demolished as Government seeks to restore order in urban settlements.
Houses built on wetlands and open spaces zoned for recreation, along with informal structures built on land reserved for social amenities, are to be targeted under an exercise to rid towns and cities of illegal settlements. Some of these illegal housing stands were created by land barons, some were created by corrupt municipal councillors and officials.
Speaking on the sidelines of a stakeholders’ seminar organised by the Zimbabwe Builders and Contractors Association in Harare yesterday, Minister Garwe said land barons took advantage of an announcement by Government that it could consider regularising some illegal allocations and settlements. The barons took advantage of this to offload a flood of new stands and started hacking out further open land to subdivide.
“We are aware of what is happening in Harare now. There are areas reserved for recreational facilities and we have told local authorities not to sell that land and wetlands. These are not supposed to be destroyed by construction activities and the houses are not going to be spared from demolitions,” he said.
“The reason why there were massive activities of construction in those areas is because the ministry announced that some homes were not going to be destroyed, but would be regularised and land barons took advantage and started constructing new structures,” said Minister Garwe.
Writing on his Twitter handle yesterday, Permanent Secretary for Information and Publicity Mr Nick Mangwana warned of impending house demolitions and the closure of illegal or unregistered businesses as the Government seeks to clean up the capital.
“Expect demolitions of illegal structures, arrests of illegal vendors, land barons, sand and water poachers, money changers, closure of unregistered businesses and closing of unlicensed shops in Harare. Lawlessness is being clamped on,” said Mr Mangwana.
There has been criticism of Harare City Council for not moving in swiftly when unapproved building takes place. All those building houses, or any other structure, in an urban area have to have building plans approved and then have regular checks by inspectors at set points in the construction.
Under normal circumstances this would stop illegal structures, or structures on stands that should not exist, since municipal officials would simply not approve the plans. But some land barons pretend to the people they con that everything has been approved in bulk, and there are suspicions that corrupt officials may be implicated.
All stands have to be created on an approved layout, regardless of whether this is for private or public land, with large-scale private developers required to get town planning approval before subdivision and development, which must include agreed services such as roads, sewers, water pipes and Zesa servitudes. On public land the relevant council or ministry would create the layout plans.
Those whose houses are being demolished at the behest of Prophet Makandiwa were seeking help.
Moses Mutambara, a Form Six student who stays with his brother at one of the houses which was demolished yesterday, said they had lost a lot of valuables.
“I was called by neighbours that our house was being demolished. This is my brother’s house. He is at work now. As you can see, our property has been damaged and we have lost a lot of valuables. I cannot even locate my national ID and to make matters worse, we are scheduled to write exams next month,” he said.
It was a double tragedy for Mr Shadmore Muzeya who is processing repatriation papers for his sister who died in South Africa.
“We find ourselves in a very terrible situation. I have to quickly find a plan for the accommodation of the family. But our appeal is for the Government to help us against these unscrupulous land barons.”