Put an end to illegal settlements

Put an end to illegal settlements
There are a lot of illegal settlements in urban areas that need to be regularised or disbanded through either relocation of the settlers or eviction

There are a lot of illegal settlements in urban areas that need to be regularised or disbanded through either relocation of the settlers or eviction

Zvamaida Murwira Mr Speaker Sir
The pace at which responsible authorities are attending to illegal settlements that have sprouted in and around Harare and other towns across the country, leaves a lot to be desired.

Mr Speaker Sir, there are a lot of illegal settlements in urban areas that need either to be regularised or disbanded through either relocation of the settlers or evicting them altogether. There are some settlements whose land had been invaded by some unscrupulous people before they begin selling it illegally to unsuspecting home-seekers.

In some of such settlements, Mr Speaker Sir, some people would have lawfully bought residential stands from local authorities or housing cooperatives and the effect of such invasion would have to elbow out those who would have lawfully bought stands from taking occupation.

The entities charged with attending to these settlements include local authorities, Government and Urban Development Corporation. Mr Speaker Sir, Udcorp appears to be dragging its feet in discharging its mandate of regularising several settlements falling under its purview. The Portfolio Committee on Local Government chaired by recently appointed Engineer Michael Madanha (Hwedza South) has a lot of work on its hands, which it has to discharge as part of its oversight and representative role in addressing these issues.

Government took away the management of land development and administration from housing cooperatives and conferred the work on the shoulders of Udcorp about three years ago, after noting that the housing cooperatives were ripping off unsuspecting home-seekers through double allocations and failure to restore order.

Some of the areas where Udcorp was given responsibility to restore normalcy and conduct land development include Nyatsime settlement in Chitungwiza, Caledonia, Hatcliffe, Stoneridge, Eyecourt in Harare South among other areas. In Nyatsime housing development Government had to move in after some senior council officials were convicted by courts of law of embezzling money belonging to home-seekers meant for land development.

Stand owners in Nyatsime housing development with offer letters from council have failed to take occupation of their stands after some land barons took over the land and parcelled out to desperate home-seekers. Most of these stand owners numbering more than 15 000 lawfully given the stands by council are still struggling to take occupation of their stands.

The issue has been dragging on for the past 10 years, Mr Speaker Sir, so much that some stand owners have died or relocated to their rural homes before taking occupation of their stands.

While it is common cause, Mr Speaker Sir, that there is a legal challenge before the courts between Chitungwiza council and Government on one hand and three farmers with offer letters for agricultural land, what is worrying is the failure by responsible authorities to put an end to the impasse. There are areas like Stoneridge, where Udcorp was asked to move in, but up to now nothing has changed, serve the fact that the parastatal collected $10 per stand as registration fees two years ago.

In Stoneridge, Udcorp is still to move in despite repeated assurances it had been giving to people that it was on its way to conduct land development. There are other issues where unscrupulous people built structures on buffer zones and areas earmarked for schools, health centres among other irregularities.

With respect to Eyecourt and Hatcliffe housing development Udcorp has not been visible, while in Caledonia bickering over stands is the order of the day. In Southley Park, there has not been definitive clarity on who the owner of Ordar Farm is, in the wake of businessman, Mr Philip Chiyangwa who has suddenly emerged to say the land belonged to him.

All this has left stand owners allocated by Ordar Consortium disillusioned on where they should direct their money for farm compensation.

The situation in Southley Park was made worse when the former Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Mr Saviour Kasukuwere cast aspersions on the circumstances under which Mr Chiyangwa had suddenly claimed ownership of the vast tract of land, which hitherto had been owned by the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, a group of white tobacco farmers who were either Plaintiffs or Respondents in several court battles in the Administrative Court or Supreme Court.

Mr Kasukuwere, who has since been expelled from Government had indicated that there was need for Government to look into claims of ownership to the land by Mr Chiyangwa to determine whether such acquisition was aboveboard. The above examples are just mere examples as there are other many such examples around the country. What is worrying, Mr Speaker Sir, is that nothing on the ground has changed in respect of resolving these issues as enunciated above.

The Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing should be buoyed by the determination by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to meet the aspirations of the people within reasonable time. Without blaming anyone, Mr Speaker Sir, what is not in dispute is that the delay in bringing resolution to these conflicts will no doubt be a disservice to ordinary people, whose legislators are mandated to serve in their representative capacity.

It is common cause that indeed there are issues that have seen these problems go on with no solution in sight thereby disillusioning the affected persons some of whom might have parted with their hard earned money. What is required is for the committee to get to the bottom of the matter and establish where the problem is with a view of ensuring that people ultimately get the service they duly deserve.

Needless to say, justice delayed is justice denied.
A case in Nyatsime Housing Scheme would no doubt require the assistance of Government to intervene by way of evicting those that have illegally settled themselves elbowing out lawfully allocated people who continue to hold on to offer letters.

There is also need to address the issue of the three farmers who had challenged the use of the farm for urban expansion as they argued that they had offer letters to use the property for agricultural purposes. Government simply ought to expeditiously provide alternative land for the three and complete the formalities to be followed during acquisition of farms for urban expansion.

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