Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter—
PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday took to task two Government ministers over an illegal residential settlement that has mushroomed near the Harare International Airport, asking them to explain why it was allowed to crop up. Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and his Transport and Infrastructural Development counterpart Dr Joram Gumbo could not give satisfactory answers.
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The settlement is being administered by a housing co-operative calling itself Nyikavanhu Housing Cooperative, but gives a view of a haphazard “squatter camp” as it is largely composed of makeshift houses. President Mugabe, who was cutting the ribbon to officially open the first phase of the Harare International Airport Road, looked at the settlement and was not impressed.
He said the settlement tarnished the image of the country and the settlers should be immediately relocated. After cutting the ribbon, the President asked Dr Gumbo about the legal status of the settlement. Dr Gumbo said he was not sure about its status and referred questions to Minister Kasukuwere, who was not immediately available.
When Minister Kasukuwere was eventually called to explain, he said the settlement was a housing cooperative. Said President Mugabe: “Ko izvo zviri kubuda uko zvii? Apa hapaite kuti mupe vanhu nekuti panhu panopfuura nemavisitors. Haisi land yeexpansion yeairport here?”
Minister Kasukuwere concurred that the land was for airport expansion. President Mugabe then added:“Vanhu vari apa ngavabve.” Legislator for Harare South, which forms part of the settlement, Cde Shadreck Mashayamombe, who was also present when President Mugabe made the order, said the area would be cleared within 14 days.
He agreed that the area was reserved for airport expansion and other related services such as construction of hotels. Cde Mashayamombe said a delegation led by Harare Metropolitan Provincial Minister of State Cde Miriam Chikukwa would visit the area today to inform the residents that they should move out.
He said some of the occupants were illegal settlers who invaded the land in 2000. Cde Mashayamombe said the settlers were offered alternative land in Stoneridge Park, but some refused to vacate. “They settled themselves on that land in 2000 and in 2013 Government ordered them to move to Retreat Farm in Harare South where they were offered 2 000 stands,” he said.
“About 700 complied and some resisted and regrouped with other new occupants to expand the settlement. We are already in the process of relocating them, but now that the President has raised concern over the settlement we are going to speed up the process.
“In 14 days the place will be clear and tomorrow (today) we are visiting the area with the Minister of State (Miriam Chikukwa), provincial administrator (Mr Alfred Tome), Harare mayor (Bernard Manyenyeni) and the district administrator of that area to inform the residents of this development.”
Some of the residents who spoke to The Herald said the area was cleared for residential occupation. One of the residents, who only identified himself as Mr Jena, said they were given an offer letter as Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative in 2006. He said they were also in possession of a letter from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe clearing them to build houses on that land.
“We have all the paperwork to build houses here under Arlington Subdivision E,” said Mr Jena. “The sub-division is of 500 stands measuring 2 000 square metres.” Mr Jena said since 2010 they had paid instalments amounting to $4 000. One of the residents who refused to be named said he bought his stand from a member of the cooperative through an estate agent for $22 000.
“I am not sure of the legal status of this area because I bought this stand through an estate agent for $22 000,” he said. “As it stands right now, I am stopping all the developments I am carrying out until I have a clear picture of where this is going.”