MAKEOVER OF SOUTHLEA PARK ON CARDS

12 May, 2024 - 12:05 0 Views
MAKEOVER OF SOUTHLEA PARK ON CARDS

The Sunday Mail

Veronica Gwaze

THE ever-growing population of Harare and demand for housing has over the years led to the creation of new residential areas, particularly on the peripheries of the capital.

Ushewokunze, Hopley, Fairview, Pokugara Residential Estates and Southlea Park, among others, have since evolved into large settlements.

This has helped to lessen accommodation challenges in the country’s largest city, where more than 1,5 million people are on the housing waiting list.

But a lot of the settlements do not have sufficient onsite and offsite infrastructure for running water and sewage, among other things, as they were established at a time when the Government, through the 2012 National Housing Policy, had approved incremental and parallel housing development.

This process meant housing construction could be carried out simultaneously with the provision of services.

However, the provision of services lagged behind or stopped altogether. This resulted in houses that are not sufficiently serviced.

These settlements presently do not have the requisite infrastructure, clean water supplies and waste management.

But the Government has expressed its intention to develop these areas through various interventions.

Southlea Park, situated on the southern side of the capital, is one of the settlements that have been targeted for early expansion and regularisation.

Developments in the suburb are expected to be in line with the modernisation drive currently taking place at the Mbudzi Interchange.

The exciting project promises to offer residents a vibrant and sustainable living environment, catering for a diverse range of needs and lifestyles.

Southlea Park, which was established in 2006 by a consortium, is now poised to become a thriving community, offering a unique blend of modern amenities, green spaces and a family-friendly atmosphere.

Plans are underway to create proper water reticulation systems, construct roads, schools and proper healthcare facilities.

Chief director for spatial planning and development in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works Shingirayi Mushamba said Southlea Park developmental plans were already at implementation stage.

“We have agreed in principle with the City of Harare and now await further submission of detailed plans from their side. We want to ensure that in the shortest time possible, we formalise the settlement, expedite its servicing and ensure compliance with all conditions that lead to issuance of title deeds,” he said.

Regularisation of stands, he said, had already commenced.

“Currently, we are addressing the major fundamental issues around land and compensation of the previous owners of that land. There are going to be some major changes in Southlea Park in the next two years. We intend to bring sanity to the area.”

Good concept gone wrong

At its inception, the Southlea Park scheme was meant for employees from Nyaradzo, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, FBC Holdings, OK and 52 other companies.

However, the arrangement later became open to individuals, which led to the emergence of both legal and illegal settlements.

According to Southlea Park resident clerk Chamunorwa Katigo’s records, the community currently has more than 5 000 official households.

“Our plan indicates we have so far allocated a total of 5 354 stands, while another 4 000 are still available.

“We have another space which we had reserved for the construction of a school, but the area has since been invaded by people creating illegal settlements. Nothing has been done to rectify the situation,” said Katigo.

The original area’s development plan states that the community should have a total of 9 000 residential stands, six schools, five public toilets and at least eight churches.

Residential stands are divided into high-, medium- and low-density spaces, which measure 200 square metres, 375 square metres and 2 000 square metres, respectively.

However, infills and illegal cottages have sprouted in some of the areas.

Similarly, some spaces that were reserved for the creation of community facilities have also been converted to private residential stands by land barons.

The haphazard creation of structures is a threat to the settlement.

Ordinarily, stands in the neighbourhood should be applied for and subsequently allocated through the consortium and the clerk’s office.  The applicant is supposed to meet certain financial obligations before the piece of land is issued out.

“There are now serious anomalies here and things need to be rectified as a matter of urgency as the situation is slowly getting out of hand. People are now self-allocating stands, which is wrong!” added Katigo.

Chaos

When The Sunday Mail Society visited Southlea Park recently, the area was a hive of activity at the main shopping centre.

However, there were indications that a lot still needs to be done.

The five communal toilets that were constructed are no longer functional.

“All public toilets are currently closed due to maintenance issues. The community also does not have a proper sewer system in place,” added Katigo.

Defaulting

Reports indicate that residents stopped paying their bills, which resulted in some contractors withdrawing their services.

“They were supposed to be paying about US$18 each household per month, which was to be channelled towards developing the area and the City of Harare for service provision, but most of them have stopped paying,” said Katigo.

As it stands, the community does not have tarred roads and refuse is not collected.

The consortium has since drilled 10 boreholes, while Zimbabwe Red Cross Society also chipped in with an additional three.

Some property owners are becoming increasingly frustrated by lack of development in the area.

“This place is slowly becoming a jungle. We do not understand how things are being handled. Something needs to be done to salvage the situation,” said Gumisai Nyagura, a resident.

Nyagura, who moved to Southlea Park seven years ago, said the once promising community was slowly degenerating.

Crime

Residents feel there is a need for a police station to be set up to prevent crime, especially at night.

“Barely a week passes without a terrible incident in the neighbourhood and we feel the need for tight security,” added another resident, Margaret Chemhute.

Southlea Park residents’ representative Cletus Zveushe notes the need to restore sanity as the community has become a crime haven and ticking health time bomb.

“According to experts, the distance between a septic tank and a well or other water sources should be at least 10 metres to prevent contamination but do these authorities ever come to inspect what is happening here?” he asked.

Innovation

Urban planning expert Angela Chigaba called on the authorities to effectively play their role to develop the area.

“The authorities need to revisit the initial plan and demolish all illegal structures,” she said.

“This (town planning) is a dynamic process which changes in response to policy, development proposals and local needs, hence it was key for planners to consider the inevitable ballooning population over time. In this day and age, we should be adopting the concept of gated communities because they are easy to manage in all aspects,” she said.

Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba weighed in.

“It is time for the authorities to find ways of making land affordable and accessible to ordinary people. The less accessible it is, the higher the chances people would cut corners just to have a roof over their heads,” he said.

“The Government also needs to start dealing decisively with selfish land barons because they are the major causes of chaos in most suburbs.”

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