There is no running water, electricity or proper ablution facilities, setting a good platform, for the outbreak of diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Welcome to Southlea Park, a jumbled up settlement which lies about 15km south of Harare.
Southlea Park is one of the many new settlements that have been mushrooming in and around Harare in recent years, courting controversy on lack of transparency in the manner residential stands are allocated and the standards of the structures being built.
Many believe that the housing structures do not conform to city by-laws but cannot be destroyed because Zanu PF was behind most of the settlements. When The Standard news crew visited the settlement last week, some residents were busy putting up their structures.
One resident claimed he could build and inspect his own house if need be. “Should anyone feel that I made a mistake with the planning; I will pull the house down and rebuild it,” he said.
An official at the developer’s office, said there were 56 companies selling stands in Southlea Park. There is one developer and one inspector who travels from Domboshava daily during week days to carry out inspection of the structures.
Residents who require his services pay a US$5 transport fee while those with own transport can pick the inspector from the developers’ office to their stands.
The official said there were no title deeds for the stands which cost US$7 500 for 1 000m2 although most people buy 200m2 stands which are cheaper.
The official, who could not give the total number of people who have bought residential stands in Southlea Park, said water and electricity would be installed next year.
“What is important now is for people to have somewhere to stay,” said the official. “They will upgrade their homes in accordance with their plans but we cannot control what people do on their stands because they paid for them.”
Residents must submit plans to council for approval: Gwindi
Harare City Council spokesperson Leslie Gwindi urged residents to submit plans before beginning construction of their houses. He said council would demolish such structures if the plans were not approved.
“People have to submit plans and if they meet the standards they are given the green light to start building but if the house does not meet standards we bring it down,” said Gwindi.
The city housing department has revealed that the housing backlog is standing at 500 000 residents with over 200 housing cooperatives not yet short-listed for any residential stands.
Politicians behind the settlements, say councillors
There are several other squalid settlements sprouting in and around Harare which councillors said must be demolished. Some of the settlements are found in Hopley, Kambuzuma, Dzivarasekwa, Glen Norah C, Hatcliffe, Snake Park, Mabvuku-Tafara and Epworth.
Councillors who spoke to The Standard last week said it was difficult for the council to control such developments because there were powerful politicians behind them who were parcelling out stands in exchange for votes.
The councillors insisted that the settlements do not conform to the city’s laws and this may affect the future laying down of sewer lines in those areas because land is unserviced.
While government allows stand owners to build on unserviced stands, council requires that water and sewer pipes be installed before construction.
“Many people now know that State land is being parcelled out by Zanu PF to its supporters for example in Harare South’s Ward 1 where Southlea is,” said one Harare councillor, adding that some of the settlements were later licensed by the city.
Harare City Council housing and community services committee chairperson Charles Nyatsuro said proper development of the city could only be achieved if political parties worked together.
“This situation can be contained if we worked together with one vision but unfortunately, some people involve too much politics in these issues,” said Nyatsuro, who added that Zanu PF was promoting the mushrooming of illegal structures in Harare.
Efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo were fruitless as his mobile phone was unavailable. Chipangano, a Zanu PF-linked militia group, is said to be scuttling a U$5 million housing project meant for the poor in Mbare.
Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda has said the group was demanding that 51% of the housing units to be constructed with funds from a donation by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation be given to its members.