The Urban Development Corporation (Udcorp) has sent letters to hundreds of Chitungwiza residents instructing them to pay a penalty fee of US$1 500 for “illegally settling” in the town without the municipality’s approval.
BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
Udcorp told residents in the letters that it had been tasked by the Ministry of Local Government to preside over the regularisation of illegal structures in Chitungwiza.
“It is through this exercise that it has been noted that you do not have the council’s permission to develop any structure or occupy the piece of land that you have occupied/developed,” wrote Udcorp.
“According to the Chitungwiza Municipality [Residential Properties] [Rent] [Amendment] By-laws, 2014 [No.20], cited in the Municipality of Chitungwiza Capital and Revenue estimates 2014, you are being advised to pay a penalty fee of $1 500 for illegally settling in Chitungwiza without Chitungwiza Municipality approval.”
The letters further indicated that the payment of the fine did not guarantee retention of the stands.
But Udcorp said in the event of demolitions, Chitungwiza Municipality would provide an alternative stand.
Residents were given five working days to pay the fines, failure of which they would automatically lose their right to be considered for lawful allocation.
Residents last week slammed the latest turn of events and accused the town authority of double standards since it was the one that allocated some of the residential stands and was still receiving payments from the affected residents.
Ronald Mangwiro of Unit K, Seke, said he received the letter in which he was being ordered to pay the money.
“I find this shocking because I have been paying rates to the council, and now I receive a letter saying that I have to pay for settling on an illegal piece of land,” he fumed.
Mercy Makope of Unit B said she was surprised when she received a letter because she had never dealt with Udcorp as all her interactions were with the local authority.
“It is strange because I don’t know this Udcorp. I think they should be dealing with the council to which we have been faithfully paying rates after purchasing the residential stands from land developers,” she said.
Government destroyed hundreds of houses in Chitungwiza last month, leaving families homeless in violation of constitutional guarantees to shelter. The High Court subsequently stopped the demolitions following an urgent chamber applications made by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on behalf of the affected residents.
The Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust (Chitrest) has however, urged the residents not to deal with Udcorp because it was not clear how the deal with Ministry of Local Government was consummated.
Chitrest programmes co-ordinator Marvelous Khumalo said it was unclear how Udcorp arrived at the US$1 500 penalty fee without consulting the relevant stakeholders.
“If payment of the above stipulated fine does not guarantee that a beneficiary will retain the same piece of land, why then should affected families pay the fine?” Khumalo queried. “The letter from Udcorp speaks on behalf of the Chitungwiza Municipality, yet the two are different entities, the former public and the latter private.”