Residents in ward 10, Chitungwiza have expressed concern over council and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA)’s failure to act on developments taking place on a piece of land adjacent to Chikwanha Shopping Centre that was reserved for the Harare-Chitungwiza railway line.
Documents seen by The Herald show that the land in question, measuring 41.7 hectares, was sold to the Anglican Church by Mr Nyangani and Mr Chirongwe through Chirox (Pvt) Ltd in 2011.
The subdivision permit for the remainder of St Marys was issued on September 5, 2012. The permit had 185 stands, including the remainder.
However, during the process of applying for the subdivision of the remainder of St Marys it was noted that part of the land that always had been thought to belong to Anglican Church was actually State land.
The State land layout was not approved because EMA indicated that the proposed site was a wetland.
Residents, who spoke to The Herald, said both council and EMA should come clean on the matter.
Mr Kenneth Maphosa (83) said it was disheartening to continue to see all wetlands being invaded.
“We have always known that Government had plans to build a railway on that land, which was going to benefit all of us and greater part of the area is a wetland,” he said.
Mr Mathias Samantha said authorities should look into the issue.
“The companies currently developing that land claims to have offer letters from council and clearance from EMA all of a sudden, why? The same EMA forbade the initial company Chirox from making any developments because it was a wetland. Have they suddenly violated their own rules?”
Another disgruntled resident in the area, Mr Oliver Matinyare (79), said the invasion of wetlands had affected the availability of ground water in the town and council should safeguard wetlands and breathing spaces.
He also said Government should intervene and preserve this land and maintain its original purpose.
Commenting on the issue, Ward 10 Councillor Peter Matiringe said council was against the current developments and had issued a prohibition order.
“As council we recommended that there be a joint operation committee to stop all illegal developments at Chikwanha and want the restoration of the site to its original state,” he said.
EMA’s Chitungwiza district officer Mr Adains Mudii said they never gave any approval to the three companies.
“As far we know, we never gave approval of any development on that particular area to any company. According to the ecological assessment, the greater part of that area is a wetland. For any company or institution to develop it they must first have an environmental impact assessment done, but in this case it was not done. We are not involved in what is happening on that site,” he said.
In May last year, the then town clerk Dr George Makunde wrote a letter to the parent ministry requesting three hectares of land adjacent to Chikwanha Shopping Centre to compensate one Peyama.
The response from the ministry read: “The information that we got from EMA shows that 25 3787ha is wetland and 16.3571ha is a non-wetland. Please note that the non-wetland included private land which belongs to Anglican Church.”
Now there are three new companies Vitadel (Pvt) Ltd, Father Link Investments (Pvt) Ltd and Lightvale Properties, who are claiming to have various offer letters from council and fully paid for authority to use the land, which is not a wetland, measuring 16 3571 hectares.
They were issued with an enforcement order in terms of section 32 of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act on July 4, 2020 following illegal activities which were taking place on the ground which included construction of roads.
However, the said companies appealed against the enforcement order and the matter is still pending at the Administrative Court.