By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
13 January 2014
The illegal allocation of residential stands by government officials has once again put thousands of people at risk of losing their homes, after it was revealed that stands at a settlement outside Harare were allocated unlawfully.
According to the independent NewsDay newspaper, an eviction directive was recently issued by the Local Government Ministry to families at Caledonia Farm, located on the outskirts of Harare.
The directive was reportedly confirmed by the Transport and Infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Petronella Kagonye, who is said to have already met with Caledonia residents on Saturday. She told NewsDay the affected stands are situated on waterways, locations reserved for clinics and other “social services”.
Affected families at Caledonia have been given up to January 24th to vacate their homes, but there is no alternative plan in place to accommodate them. Another meeting with Kagonye, who is also MP for Goromonzi South, is scheduled for next Saturday.
Caledonia Farm, located near Tafara high-density suburb just outside of Harare, is also popularly known as kwaBhobho. Casper Takura, a former Councilor for Tafara, criticized the chaotic manner in which stands were allocated in many areas, saying officials “politicized” the process and also stood to gain financially.
“There is a lot of profit involved. Senior government officials and senior Council officials were involved in these things. And whenever you questioned something, they referred you to Minister (Ignatius) Chombo’s office, which shows government knew what was happening,” Takura told SW Radio Africa.
He explained that the same officials who allocated the illegal stands are now also the ones ordering the evictions of families, “without considering that they are human beings who have children and need shelter”.
The latest development comes almost a month after government listed the farm for acquisition, claiming it was for “urban re-development”.
A notice in the government gazette from December last year, attributed to the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Douglas Mombeshora, claimed that the person intending to seize the farm was none other than President Robert Mugabe himself.
In addition, the notices also come just months after the Local Government Ministry announced its intention to demolish all so-called illegal structures in Harare, Chitungwiza and other outlying areas.
The demolitions got underway in Ruwa and Damo Falls but the campaign faced such strong opposition that government was forced to end it there, giving residents a two-month reprieve to negotiate their status with the Council.
It turned out many people had been allowed to establish homes and tuck shops by local officials who profited from illegal land deals. The demolitions would have also victimized ZANU PF supporters who had benefitted from illegal land allocations.