The Sunday Mail
Future bleak for Harare South residents
No solution in sight for 12-year-old land dispute
The future of more than 20 000 families in Harare South is under threat as the dispute over the control and ownership of Odar and Saturday Retreat farms remains unresolved.
Two housing consortiums that settled families at Odar and Saturday Retreat Farm, now commonly known as Southlea Park and Ushewekunze Housing Co-operative respectively, are refusing to pay compensation to Pinnacle Property Holdings and CFI Holdings.
Government, through the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, had agreed with both CFI Holdings Limited and Pinnacle Holdings that the co-operatives should pay $4 per square metre as compensation.
Some members of the housing co-operatives remain adamant that the co-operatives have the exclusive rights to develop the land.
Housing co-operatives are registered with the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises Development.
More than 8 000 people were settled at Odar and over 15 000 at Saturday Retreat Farm.
A recent visit to the Ushewekunze Housing Co-operative revealed a chaotic situation in which some members of the consortium were divided and fighting among themselves.
Land barons have taken advantage of the confusion, as they are parcelling and illegally selling land.
Although some of the stand holders are now paying compensation directly to CFI, other stand holders are refusing to follow the directive.
Mr Fungai Nyarota, the chairman of the Ushewekunze Housing Co-operative, said his co-operative will “never” deal directly with CFI.
“Remember we were given this land by the Government and as such, Government must address us and not CFI.
“As stand holders, we are not sure of what is going on between Government and CFI. We will never entertain CFI,” Mr Nyarota said.
Mr Nyarota said it is Government, and not the stand holders, who must pay the compensation.
CFI, on the other hand is insisting that those stand holders that are not paying risk being evicted from the land.
“The Administrative Court judgment is very clear. All the residents are obliged to pay to CFI and those that are refusing to pay will be evicted.
“We are currently conducting surveys and land audits to ascertain the number of land holders,” said Mr Panganai Hare, the CFI group company secretary and spokesman.
Mr Hare said that title deeds will only be issued to stand holders who would have completed their payments.
The current developments spell disaster to the members of the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Housing Co-operative.
In the event that the land is returned to CFI, members of the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Housing Co-operative fear that the $1,2 million that the co-operative has so far used to develop the area will go down the drain.
“This is clearly a land reversal and to me, the future looks bleak.
“Our co-operative has so far invested more than $1,2 million in layout plans, title surveys, Environmental Impact Assessments reports and the opening up of roads among others.
“I don’t trust CFI, once they are legally declared to be the rightful owners of this land, they might do whatever they like with it. The company might even evict us,” a visibly worried Mr Daniel Chiwandire said.
Mr Chiwandire is a committee member of the union’s housing project.
Besides constructing a three-roomed cottage, Mr Chiwandire, who was allocated a 766-square metre stand, has also used more than $4 000 in development charges.
At $4 per square metre, Chiwandire will have to fork out $3 064 for the land alone.
Collectively, the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has 518 members. Mr Chiwandire’s biggest fear is that he might soon be rendered homeless. The majority of the stand-holders said they cannot afford to pay the $4 per square metre.
Most of the people that settled at Ushewekunze occupied the farm after they were displaced during the 2005 Operation Restore Order (Murambatsvina).
Saturday Retreat Farm was compulsory acquired in terms of the Land Acquisition Act in 2005.
The then Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Dr Herbert Murerwa, had argued in his court affidavit that the acquisition of the land was for urban expansion and urban development purposes to accommodate more than two million homeless people.
The court papers indicate that over 7 500 families were then settled on the occupied land while a further 7 000 families were expected to be settled on the occupied land.
Stand holders allege that CFI deliberately inflated the value of the developments at the farm.
“There are no other developments here save for this small dam and the dilapidated farm house.
“How the evaluators came about with this $54 000 evaluation for the farm house is a subject of debate,” said Mr Joseph Manjengwa, a resident.
When The Sunday Mail Extra visited Ushewekunze last week, surveyors contracted by CFI were busy auditing land.
According to CFI, more than 9 000 stands have been allocated to cooperative members. Some of the members are said to be fully paid up.
Observers noted that stand holders that are refusing to pay for the stands are not only defying a court order by are also defying government policy.
“It is sad that some people want to get everything for free. This is a simple issue, all the stand holders need to do is to pay up and then get title to the land,” said Mr Amos Murwisi, one of the residents who has not defied the court order.
Mr Ezekiel Karimanzira, the chair of the consortium said order has been restored at Ushewekunze.
“Everything is in now in order. I am calling upon our members to pay up so that they get their title deeds,”Mr Karimanzira said.
He said that only a few “misguided elements” are refusing to pay.
Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of people that are illegally selling land.