Land barons, councils nailed . . .Forced to compensate homeseekers

The Herald

Fungi Kwaramba

Political Editor

LAND barons and councils that duped desperate home-seekers to settle and develop on illegal land will not only have their day in court but will also be forced by the Government to compensate their victims, a meeting that involved ministers, ruling party officials and other agencies heard yesterday.

This follows President Mnangagwa’s directive on Thursday for corrective measures to be taken to bring order to local authorities that had become havens of corruption as houses were constructed illegally on wetlands, without supporting infrastructure such as water and roads.

The illegal parcelling of stands by local authorities saw perpetrators of the rot wantonly disregarding existing land statutes and setting a recipe for a health time bomb with dire consequences for the supposed beneficiaries.

Addressing the meeting on unlawful and irregular human settlements in urban areas, that included ruling party officials, relevant ministers, and agencies such as the Environment Management Authority (EMA) in Harare yesterday, Vice President Chiwenga who is leading the team that will bring sanity to local authorities said they won’t be fear or favour in redressing the situation.

“In his address yesterday (on Thursday), His Excellency the President directed all ministries, Government departments, and agencies to work in concert in order to stop the rot, and to reassert planned human settlement and growth of our towns and cities.

“He also directed that all those who broke the laws and by-laws on urban settlement should be brought to book without fear or favour.

“Indeed, these culprits, notoriously known as land barons, will not only have their day in court; they will also be made to compensate desperate home seekers whom they so callously fleeced and exploited,” said VP Chiwenga.

The current wet spell has exposed the country’s local authorities after rains led to floods in the country’s major towns and cities as nature fought back against the mushrooming of illegal settlements on wetlands and waterways.

With the Second Republic sticking to the rule of law, lawful conduct and discipline, Vice President Chiwenga told the meeting that the impending clean-up of local authorities will spare no one regardless of political affiliation.

He said the Justice Tendai Uchena Land Commission Report and subsequent reports have named culprits who are behind the scourge, some of whom may want to hide behind the veil of political party membership or even namedrop to avoid arrest.

“Today, luck has run out for such wayward characters and the hour of reckoning has now come. His Excellency has directed that action against those involved be taken without fear or favour, and that no official from any party, or Government, should stand in the way of necessary corrective action,” he said.

Over the past years, the lawlessness in urban settlements has resulted in undesignated land being illegally taken for housing, resulting in the establishment of illegal settlements that are often unplanned, irregular and do not meet approved standards.

“Such structures will have to be demolished and cleared from spaces which are either environmentally sensitive or which were originally designated for uses other than residential ones. As I said, restitution to unsuspecting home-seekers will come from the criminal land barons who authorised such settlements,” he said.

In order to bring back sanity to urban councils, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism working with EMA will take the lead in mapping wetlands around the country so as to come up with a masterplan of all ecologically sensitive spaces which must not be disturbed by human settlements.

That having been carried out, the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities, and the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works will step in to identify and quantify all places in flood-prone areas, on illegal spaces and other irregular places to jointly establish “the magnitude of likely displacement from unavoidable demolitions”.

Along with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement should identify suitable alternative land on which to relocate families and households which will be affected by the impending programme.

Relevant ministries are also expected to draw, and redraw plans for orderly settlements both on new spaces and those reclaimed after demolitions with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development expected to mobilise funds for the construction of new planned settlements that should result in the development of the real estate sector, a sector which can contribute as much as 20 percent to the country’s GDP.

The Ministries of Energy and Power Development, Women Affairs, Community and Small Medium Enterprise Development will also be roped in to add the new settlements to the national grind and also bring sanity to cooperatives respectively.

The Herald