Will the real land barons please stand up?
The arrest of arraignment of Mr Fredrick Mabamba has brought yet a new development to the saga of land barons. With around 50 individuals so far having appeared in court for charges pertaining to the illegal sale of land. Some alleged land barons have threatened to expose high ranking politicians involved in the crimes.
Harare province secretary for legal affairs Cde Danny Musukuma who was fingered as a land baron by the management committee of Mukuvisi Tashinga Housing Co-operative said he did not parcel out any stands in Harare and threatened to expose the “real barons”.
“I will soon release a list of senior politicians and Government officials who received some stands at the co-operative, some of whom I believe could be standing in the way of justice, shielding criminals,” he said.
Another alleged land baron who featured prominently in Caledonia is Nelson Mandizvidza who is alleged to have swindled home seekers of $2,8 million. Mandizvidza was one of the leaders of Caledonia Eastville Housing Development Consortium which demanded that people pay $170 per household for road construction and sewer reticulation services.
Caledonia farm had five co-operatives and members accuse the proposed consortium and some of the members of the management committees at the farm of swindling them of their money.
Mandizvidza a member of the Zanu-PF party, however, denied swindling home-seekers saying they had a plan for Caledonia.
“The co-operatives we had were not normal. They were political housing co-operatives. You should draw a line between Mandizvidza and the housing co-operative. We took a lot of time before defending our presence in Caledonia. Over 70 percent of the money we got went towards defending the stands we got.
“Politicians who want to contest in the area are the ones who were lobbying for our arrest because they think with the popularity we have in Caledonia we might contest them,” he said.
He said there was no one with legal ownership of Caledonia and anyone who says he swindled $2,8 million is misleading the nation.
Mr Livingston Chikanga who is being accused of invading land in Caledonia and acting as mayor of the suburb for 15 years while allegedly selling residential stands illegally to home-seekers denied being a land baron saying he was never allocated any free land neither was he allocated land by the Government.
“I am not a land baron but I am actually a victim of these land barons since some of them invaded part of my land which I acquired legally from the local authority,” he said.
Another alleged land baron, Zanu-PF Goromonzi South legislator Petronella Kagonye who is being accused of grabbing seven farms in her constituency and selling residential stands to home seekers denied the allegations saying she owned one farm which was allocated to her by the Government.
“We were only allocated two farms which are Hoofmoor and Cloverdale B located in Ruwa by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing for residential development and that is the only land which we are working on,” she said.
MP Kagonye said she was fighting the real land barons who came and invaded part of their land illegally.
“The real land barons here are Mandizvidza and Gwanzura who came here and invaded part of our land without any legal documents from the local authority,” said Kagonye.
Zanu-PF Harare Provincial Secretary for Finance Dumisani Chipango, who stands accused of invading land at Ngungunyani Co-operative in Budiriro, denied owning a co-operative and any land besides his house in Budiriro.
“I don’t own any land at Ngungunyana co-operative and I last went to that place in February this year to solve land disputes in that area only,” he said.
While the justice system takes its course those who are affected are fearfully wondering if they will still have shelter at the end of the year.
About 40 houses were demolished some weeks ago before Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Cde Saviour Kasukuwere called for a halt.
At the time, acting town clerk Mrs Josephine Ncube said those who had fallen victims to land barons would have to bite the bullet.
“While we commiserate with them, we are determined to bring order in Harare and to restore the invaded land to its planned use.
“The land we are talking about was planned for schools, clinics, recreational facilities, business centres while some of it is unsuitable for construction work. Wetlands were invaded and parcelled out as housing land,” she said.
Many people have questioned where the city authorities were while the illegal land parcelling was going on and allowed buildings to go up and in some cases get completed on that land.
There appears to be some confusion even with the municipality itself.
Mrs Ncube said the Development Control Unit has been issuing stop development orders to all illegal housing settlements in Harare and in the majority of cases the city’s pleas were not heeded hence the city had no option but to pull down the illegal structures. But Harare City Council spokesperson, Mr Michael Chideme admitted that the responsible department was undergoing fortification, thus implying that it may not have been discharging its duties as expected.
“We have since taken ownership to intensify operations of our building inspectors as a way of increasing their visibility to avoid the re-emergence of illegitimate housing cooperatives,” said Mr Chideme.
“The development control unit and building inspectorate are now patrolling all areas under construction to make sure the issue of illegal settlements is completely dealt with,” he said. “Our inspectorates have the duty to check all building plans. This is one of the ways we have identified to deal with illegal settlements before people are at an advanced stage of building.”
Building inspectors are supposed to check and regularise the qualifications of builders of residential accommodation, verify ownership of stands before construction and constantly patrol construction sites to enhance transparency.
They examine plans, specifications and other documents to ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations and contract specifications.
The land barons have been greedy, the municipal authorities have been negligent in their discharge of duty, but ultimately it looks like it is the aspiring homeowner who will pay the price.