Chitungwiza residents occupying stands in undesignated areas are no longer sure of their fate following communication from the local municipality that they would be allocated new stands.
BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
Some of the residents had already started developing their stands, purchased from the municipality through different housing co-operatives.
Chitungwiza has targeted to demolish 22 000 illegal stands in St Mary’s Zengeza, Seke South and Unit J and says no monetary compensation will be paid.
A St Mary’s resident, Maxwell Choto, told The Standard last week that he had invested huge sums of money to develop his stand, building a house which was nearing completion.
“I feel letdown by the council,” he said.
“I am sure someone there benefitted because we have the papers that show the money we were paying to our housing co-operative, which was being forwarded to council.”
His house is among those targeted for demolition for being built on a wetland, situated under power lines or on land reserved for recreational facilities.
Another victim, Chipo Nhokwara, said all her hard work and sacrifices had gone to waste.
“I used up my late husband’s pension to put up this structure,” she said, fighting off tears. “Now, sadly, it has to go down.”
Nhokwara said as a “poor widow”, she had no power to fight the powerful local authority.
Town clerk George Makunde, however, said the new development would work in the residents’ favour.
“We are simply assisting our residents on the issue of legality,” he said.
Makunde said the issue of compensation was supposed to be dealt with by the housing co-operatives that sold the land to the aggrieved residents.
“If anyone feels that they have a right to be compensated, that must be done by the co-operatives or individuals from whom they would have bought the illegal stands and not council,” he said.
Many of the houses targeted for demolition were built on stands purchased through former Zanu PF councillor for Ward 25 Fredrick Mabamba’s United We Stand Housing Co-operative.
From the time matters came to head in 2013, Mabamba has insisted his hands are clean.
He argued that contrary to public perception, the land he controlled was not his personal property, but belonged to the housing co-operative which he registered 20 years ago.
Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust (Chitrest) co-ordinator Marvelous Khumalo said his organisation was worried by the council’s decision to proceed with the demolitions.
He said council should shoulder the blame because corrupt tendencies in the allocation of stands to desperate homeseekers created space for many housing co-operatives to sprout and it was unfortunate that the local authority now sought to punish the residents.
The problem, Khumalo said, was exacerbated by the absence of a clear housing policy in the dormitory town.
“Our problem is that they still want to go ahead with the demolitions and without any compensation. Our question now is who is responsible for the housing sector? Council shoulders the biggest blame because they have no clear housing policy,” he said.
The dispute over the allocation of illegal residential stands has been long-running in Chitungwiza, with some senior officials being accused of parcelling out residential stands illegally.
A three-month probe into the land scam in Chitungwiza unearthed an astonishing land grab scheme which saw land barons pocketing millions of dollars from illegal land sales.
The audit, which was conducted by the ministry of Local Government to address illegal land sales and allocations, revealed that city fathers and highly connected employees were the chief culprits.
“An estimated 8 600 stands were illegally created and allocated on which 297 houses have been completed. Councillors and council employees at all levels were the chief perpetrators of the illegal transactions.
“Housing co-operatives layout plans were not approved by the municipality, but the same local authority went on to issue stand numbers for the unapproved layout plans,” part of the report reads.
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s Local Authorities Report for the Financial Year ending December 31 2012 painted a grim picture of the collapse of governance systems in Chitungwiza.
In her report, Chiri said the financial statements for the year ended December 31 2011 were submitted for audit after the statutory deadline of 180 days, in contravention of the Urban Council’s Act.
“The absence of financial and other reports on a timely basis may compromise the decision-making and accountability by those charged with governance,” she said.