Ivan Zhakata Herald Reporter
Harare City Council is hitting the victims of those it regards as land barons by refusing to acknowledge that they have any right to the stand they were allocated and have paid at least some money for, even if this was allocated illegally.
While audits and reports on the machinations of some cooperatives and other vehicles used by land barons have seen the council moving in to regularise the issue, the group actually being hammered are those who believed rightly or wrongly they had been properly allocated the land they paid for and which is now being taken away and allocated to those on the council’s housing waiting list.
This is despite council assurances that the authorities were only after the land barons rather than legitimate residents. But residents say that this is not so, and also believe that in some cases the council is breaking its own rules by allocating council land to people who already own residential property within city limits. People wanting multiple residential properties are supposed to be working purely with private developers on private land, not on public housing estates.
One group particularly badly affected are the cooperators under the Mvurachena Housing Cooperative, who were under the belief that their cooperative had been allocated land legitimately and so their allocated plots were secure and would lead to title deeds at some stage.
But now they are losing these plots and the money they invested in buying them. Total strangers are moving in with the council’s paperwork backing them up.
“It is so painful to lose a stand which I have been holding for several years, and we have seen many other people losing their stands in the regularisation process so far. Just for the city council to come and say we are regularising whilst they put their own people is so tormenting,” said one resident who requested anonymity.
The residents suspect they might be even denied stands on political grounds.
Mr Thomas Mapfunga, a member of the Mvurachena Cooperative under Eyestone, said Harare South is a known Zanu-PF stronghold and the Harare City Council, which is run by the MDC-Alliance, may be determined to neutralise or eliminate the ruling party’s voters.
He said residential stands must be given to people without houses instead of allocating them to multiple homeowners.
“We recently demonstrated over the issue of double allocation of our stands by Harare City Council, because we know that they are dishing out stands to people who already have other properrties,” he said.
However, City of Harare spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said not everyone who has been living in Harare South will be removed.
“Council will not remove bonafide residents who have already been in the area. The council will stand by the rightful owners of those stands and is against land barons who want to continue to milk people’s hard-earned cash.
“Some cooperatives are refusing to let people regularise saying they want their money from cooperatives. People should not pay money to cooperatives,” said Mr Chideme.
He said cooperatives should not block the regularisation process, as it was good for the residents. Cooperatives are against the regularisation process since that would be the death of their cash cow.
Owners of the cooperatives have been getting regular income from land beneficiaries. Mr Chideme said cooperatives should stop demanding money from residents since they were not developing their areas.