CHITUNGWIZA RESIDENTS’ DREAM ON SHAKY GROUND

09 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
CHITUNGWIZA RESIDENTS’ DREAM ON SHAKY GROUND Clara Marovha

The Sunday Mail

Over 32 000 houses under scrutiny  . . .local authority sets way forward

Tendai Chara

WHEN Clara Marovha of Zengeza, Chitungwiza, acquired a residential stand from the late notorious Chitungwiza land baron, Frederick Mabamba, in 2013, she thought that her dream had finally come true.

However, a knock on the door a few years later shattered her sense of security, revealing a shocking claim that threatened to turn her dream into a nightmare.

She was told that the seller of the stand had illegally acquired the land.

The situation became more complex when Chitungwiza Municipality delivered another blow. An inspection revealed her house, a symbol of her hard work, was built on a designated wetland.

Tafadzwa Kachiko

Deemed an illegal structure, the house faced demolition on one hand, and the threat of collapsing on the other.

Each year, the rainy season brings a fresh wave of anxiety. Flash floods, a regular occurrence on wetlands, have often wreaked havoc, destroying her chicken runs. With poultry rearing being a vital source of income for her, such incidents are devastating.

Sleepless nights have become a norm as Marovha fears losing everything she has worked hard for. Three years after the death of Mabamba, she is still seeking answers to the various questions that remain unanswered.

“I did everything that I was asked to do and paid for this stand in full. We are, however, being constantly reminded by the council that our houses were illegally built and will one day be demolished,” said a clearly agitated Marovha.

She is not alone.

Whispers in the community revealed several residents who purchased land from Mabamba face similar challenges. The once-celebrated land baron’s legacy seemed to be a web of deceit, leaving a trail of shattered dreams in its wake.

According to the local authority, Chitungwiza has more than 32 000 illegal settlers.

Pearson Makuvaza, another Chitungwiza resident, has seemingly resigned to fate.

“On numerous occasions, we have had officials from the council and other Government departments coming here and forcing us to sign papers. These people might as well do what they want because we are tired of waiting in vain,” said an emotionally charged Makuvaza.

He notes lack of continuity on the part of the local authority in dealing with the affected residents’ plight.

“Mayors and councillors are constantly changed and when new authorities assume office, they always come up with different solutions to the one proffered by the previous office-bearers. We are moving in circles.”

Angeline Mutandwa is thinking beyond demolitions.

“In the event that our houses are demolished, are we going to be compensated and by who? We are suffering in silence,” she said.

Mabamba collapsed in a cell at the Harare Central Remand Prison on February 25, 2021 and was rushed to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, where he eventually died.

When he was arrested, he faced 15 counts of fraud involving US$13 million.

Validation

Some of the residents were not allocated stands on wetlands and sewer lines, but the fact that their properties were not handed over through relevant authorities remains a cause for concern.

“My house is not on a wetland or sewer line. For the past 10 years, I have been waiting patiently for this area to be regularised,” said a Zengeza resident.

Tafadzwa Kachiko, the Chitungwiza Municipality public relations officer, said the council is in the process of regularising some of the town’s illegal settlements. He said they are currently gathering information regarding the unlawful settlements across the town.

“Our housing department is in the process of compiling a database for the illegal structures in Chitungwiza. Among the illegal settlements that we are looking at are those stands that were fraudulently sold to unsuspecting victims by the late Mabamba,” said Kachiko.

He, however, indicated the process of gathering such information was “cumbersome”.

“Coming up with the actual figures might take a bit of time since the likes of Mabamba and others had acquired swathes of land,” he said.

Kachiko, however, assured the affected residents that in the event that the council decides to demolish some of the illegal structures, the process will be done in a “humane” manner.

“Regularisation is one key deliverables for Chitungwiza Municipality in 2024. However, there are settlements that are definitely going to be regularised and there are some which are not fit for regularisation. Houses in such settlements risk demolition. The process will be done in a humane and dignified way,” he said.

He declined to comment on whether the victims will be compensated or given alternative stands.

Instead, he said, after the compilation of the database, illegal settlers will be required to pay a monthly charge of US$30 to the local authority.

“As a first step in the regularisation process, illegal settlers will be required to pay a service charge of US$30. At this stage, we are not saying we are regularising the settlements.

“The fee (US$30) is just a service charge since they are already benefitting from certain services,” said Kachiko.

Daunting task

For Chitungwiza Municipality, coming up with the exact number of stands that the late Mabamba sold to thousands of unsuspecting victims has proved to be a mammoth task.

It is widely believed he owned close to “half” of the town.

Alice Kuvheya, the executive director of the Chitungwiza Residents Trust, reckons coming up with the exact number of stands that Mabamba sold will be a tall order.

“He grabbed land in almost all parts of Chitungwiza. He even had areas that were named after him. In my view, he owned about a quarter of this town,” she said.

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