Blessings Chidakwa and Ivan Zhakata
Those buying land parcelled out uncleanly, as well as those creating fake stands and selling land corruptly, now face arrest as Government moves to stamp out corruption, especially in the Harare and Chitungwiza where a many officials and councillors have been arrested for illegally parcelling out land.
But it has been becoming ever clearer that many of those buying the fake stands are far from innocent victims and have been by-passing laid down procedures and paying bribes, or have other strong grounds to suspect they are party to a corrupt practice.
Some of those getting land in illegal deals are deliberately building their houses without seeking approval of building plans and without seeking the required inspections.
Harare City Council has already seen a near majority of its councillors either recalled in the opposition civil wars, with all councillors elected on an MDC-Alliance ticket, or on remand on corruption related allegations and with bail conditions that prevent them doing any council duties.
In Chitungwiza, a block of the majority caucus of MDC-A councillors and some council officials were last week arrested over a battery of charges, including abuse of office and selling illegally more than 2 000 residential stands in the town.
In an interview, Harare Provincial Development Coordinator Mr Tafadzwa Muguti said the fight against corruption will continue until honesty prevailed.
“As Harare province, we are going to be the first province to actually arrest beneficiaries of corruption,” he said. “There are residents that got stands illegally and were actually offering bribes to council officials. Those people are going to be arrested. That is the best way to deal with corruption: to arrest all the parties involved.”
Mr Muguti said the country got almost two decades of the mismanagement of local authorities, a clear defiance of the Urban Councils Act and the Regional Town and Country Act.
“A lot of corruption has been happening both at councillor and senior management and even junior staff level,” he said. “The corruption ranges from illegal allocation of stands and mismanagement of funds at the same time. We also had a problem with space barons who have taken over council properties through officials.
“We need to bring back law and order and sanity and we start from ward level. Anything progressive, social and economic development, starts from ward level. We cannot have a provincial economy if we do not have a local authority based-driven economy.”
Mr Muguti said people should brace for more arrests of corrupt people.
“We are still going after those who corruptly benefited at the expense of the State and there are no sacred cows in the arrests,” he said.
In October, Chitungwiza Municipality demolished houses near St Mary’s Police Station that were being built before the area was serviced and before stand-holders had presented plans to the municipality and had these approved.
Two successive MDC-A Harare mayors Herbert Gomba (recalled) and Jacob Mafume and six other councillors that all sat in the housing committee have since been arrested in a space of four months on corruption charges and criminal abuse of office and are out on bail. Among the top management officials that were arrested are town clerk Hosiah Chisango, housing director Mr Addmore Nhekairo and former acting human resources director Mr Matthew Marara.
Harare City Council, which has less than 24 functioning councillors out of the normal 46 due to MDC-T recalls, seems to be on auto-pilot as most top management positions are currently being run in acting capacities.
Among the critical positions being run in acting capacities are that of town clerk (Dr Prosper Chonzi), chamber secretary (Mr Charles Kandemiri), finance director (Mr Stanley Ndemera), health director (Dr Kudzai Masunda) and human capital director (Mr Bozman Matengarufu).
Mr Muguti said Government had given all the local authorities up to end of this month to finalise labour issues.
“Where they need assistance, Government can assist with technical expertise,” he said. “We advised all the councils in the province that they should have solved their labour issues by the end of year.”