Parliament has named and shamed some land barons that have been illegally parcelling out land in Chitungwiza.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
A recent report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government led by Irene Zindi listed the land barons as Fredrick Mabamba of United We Stand Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Zanu PF’s Chitungwiza South MP Christopher Chigumba, Boniface Manyonganise of Yamurai Disabled Co-operative, a Mrs Manhango of Chitungwiza Ruvimbo Housing Cooperative, Mr Makuchete and a Major T Marufu, and Mr and Mrs Chivhanga of Zanoremba Housing Co-operative.
Land barons have wreaked havoc in Chitungwiza since 2010, creating a parallel land authority, that had its own architects, town planners building inspectors and housing officers.
They allegedly allocated people land on wetlands, illegally subdivided and allocated state land. Some of the land that was illegally sold to unsuspecting house seekers was on top of sewer pipes, electricity pylons, as well as at sites meant for roads, schools, clinics and recreational facilities.
As a result of the illegal allocations by the land barons, several people lost thousands of dollars after being swindled of their hard-earned cash.
Others had structures that they had built on the illegal sites destroyed by council bulldozers and were rendered homeless.
“The committee toured Unit A in Chitungwiza which had 400 stands which were illegally sold by Mabamba of United We Stand Cooperative, and these stands were along a stream but had not yet been serviced,” read the committee report.
“There were no roads, sewer and water reticulation, and residents were using unprotected wells and blair toilets.
The committee interviewed one settler who said she bought the stand for $4 500. The committee was shown where demolitions had taken place in that area, before Chitungwiza Council was stopped by the High Court from continuing.
The committee also toured houses which were built on wetlands by residents who bought the land from Mabamba.
“We were shown houses that were allocated by council, but were on wetlands and those that were sold by Mabamba which also were built on wetlands and some on a stream.
“The committee was concerned when told that Chitungwiza Town Council had illegally allocated between 4 000 and 5 000 stands,” reads the report.
The committee also toured Nyatsime where people were settled after buying stands for Z$60 million. In 2010, the settlers were told by council to pay top-ups of $900 for the stands.
The land barons allegedly fraudulently drew up building plans to give the picture that their illegal activities were authentic.
“Chitungwiza Council alleged that these barons created a parallel land authority which had their own architects, town planners, building inspectors and housing officers,” Parliament said.
“They designed their own layouts, surveyed the stands, drew and approved their own building plans and undertook inspections so as to convince home seekers that everything was above board.”
Chitungwiza Council told the committee that wetlands identified and condemned during the 2013 land audit report by the ministry of Local Government were being re-occupied.
“Local leaders were applying for regularisation and this was said to have caused another wave of illegal land occupations,” the report says.
Settlers at Nyatsime Housing Scheme led by a Mrs Matambo told the committee that they had settled on the land after they were disappointed that Chitungwiza Council had taken long to allocate them their stands.
“They said when they settled at Nyatsime, they did not adhere to the stand numbers as allocated by council. People just settled where they wished and that created chaos,” the report says.
“On June 5 2013, council obtained a court order to demolish all illegal structures in Nyatsime but this order could not be implemented because a council vehicle and that of the Messenger of Court were damaged.”
However, in spite of the court orders, illegal occupations continued on Braemer Farm, with about 12 000 residential stands illegally allocated by a councillor named as Choga from Manyame Rural District Council.
Another farm, Longlands Farm also experienced illegal occupations, with about 3 000 residential stands also illegally allocated by a Mrs Matambo of Nyatsime Housing Trust.
Chitungwiza town clerk George Makunde, told the committee that after the 2013 land audit identified the land barons, they recommended prosecution of the culprits.
“They came up with recommendations meant to bring sanity to Chitungwiza Municipality and its community. The audit report condemned allocation of stands on wetlands, school sites, and road servitudes, buffers, under electricity lines and on top of sewage pipes,” he said.
“The committee was disappointed to learn that although a directive by the Ministry of Local Government was issued to stop development on undesignated sites, more land continued to be illegally allocated, occupied, and more houses were constructed on the condemned sites.”
Parliament said it was now concerned that there was a potential health hazard at Nyatsime.
“In view of the audit report produced, Chitungwiza Municipal Council and the Ministry of Local Government should come up with a way forward to solve the problems of illegal settlement caused by land barons and action [should have been] taken by March 31 2017,” the committee recommended.
Mabvuku Tafara MP James Maridadi while debating in the National Assembly, said the land barons that have been destroying water sources by parcelling out illegal land on wetlands must be dealt with.
“There is somebody in this House who is parcelling out land on wetlands, and a report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government named Chitungwiza South MP Chigumba as one of the land barons,” he said.
“To me, the worst crimes on earth are raping a woman and stealing of land, and for Chigumba to come to this House when he knows he has stolen land, I think it is unforgivable.”
The government says it is investigating a number of businesspeople who acquired vast tracts of land in urban areas around the country through illegal means.
Controversial businessman Philip Chiyangwa has been identified as one of the alleged land barons that are being investigated by Local Government minister, Saviour Kasukuwere.-The Standard