Farirai Machivenyika and Innocent Ruwende
Government has introduced a new housing scheme to protect the public from land barons that have fleeced them of millions of dollars through illegal sales of residential stands on undesignated sites. This comes as Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere told local authorities to indicate their land requirements to the Government to facilitate their fulfilment of targets under Zim-Asset.
In a statement yesterday, the ministry said the Own-Your-Own-Home Scheme sought to meet targets set under Zim-Asset. Under Zim-Asset, the Government expects to provide up to 300 000 residential stands by 2018. “The scourge of illegal settlements precipitated by the activities of the land barons and the non-development of land by housing cooperatives and land developers has necessitated Government to introduce a new housing scheme known as Own-Your-Own-Home Contributor Scheme to meet Zim-Asset targets.
“The scheme will be anchored on member contributions to leverage finance, while the ministry will provide the land and infrastructure services,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry has since tendered for the supply of plant and equipment for the development of land. Minister Kasukuwere said the Government was aiming at offering people affordable accommodation.
“It is a programme that is meant to give people a chance to have decent accommodation that is affordable. “We are already engaging private contractors to clear the land countrywide,” he said, adding that he would divulge further details on the programme today.
The Government has embarked on a crackdown against land barons who have been illegally selling State and council land to unsuspecting members of the public. A number of people have lost their money in such deals, with 8 000 having reported their cases to the police last week while 15 suspected land barons are under investigation.
The illegal selling of land has been rampant in Harare South and Chitungwiza. Some of the housing co-operatives involved in the illegal land deals include Ebenezar, Bhora Mugedhi, Musha Mukuru and Tinotenda Baba. Suspected land barons that include Clifford Chimusoro, Stanley Mugadza, Innocent Chandinakira, Driver Kasambarara, Pardon Manyima, Dominoco Mark and Daniel Nyamuno appeared in court last week and were granted bail.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planners 2015 annual school underway here Minister Kasukuwere, however, warned local authorities against parcelling out land to barons. “Those who require land should indicate their requirements on a planning perspective so that I can assist you in getting it transferred to your respective local authorities.
“That land should not be parcelled for corrupt activities. I was challenging the planners to assist us in speeding up the process of planning so that correctly planned places can then be serviced and citizens on the waiting list can be allocated land to build their homes in a transparent manner,” he said. Minister Kasukuwere castigated land barons who were abusing the Zanu-PF name and those of the party’s leaders to carry out nefarious activities.
“All the cooperatives carry Chimurenga names but if you dig deeper, there is nothing Chimurenga going on. You are using our leaders and party symbols to carry out nefarious activities, hiding behind magamba ehondo, ZimAsset, and Josiah Magamba Tongogara,” he said.
The annual school chairman Mr Phineas Dohwe said cities were being pushed to poverty by land barons and bogus planners. “I asked a district officer in Borrowdale how much they collected, and he said they would be lucky to collect anything. Yet before things got awry, $12 000 was the minimum banking collection. So, our cities are being pushed to poverty not by the poor but we sacrifice the poor.
“I also feel these land barons are coming out because local authorities are failing to provide for the under privileged. The vulnerable are promised land by the barons who collect monthly instalments and pocket the money,” he said. He said some cooperative members have been paying land barons since 2000.
“These barons are people seeking political relevance in the name of helping the poor but the problem is they end up fleecing the poor,” he said. He said the future of town planning was at stake as barons parcelled out land which was reserved for other important purposes.