By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
14 April 2014
Chitungwiza residents have dismissed government’s ultimatum to demolish their houses built on undesignated land and called on the authorities to arrest the ‘barons’ who sold them the properties.
Last week local government minister Ignatius Chombo said the residents should destroy their structures within three weeks and relocate, or face police eviction. Chombo said those who destroy their properties of their own free will be given first priority in the allocation of stands.
Chombo vowed that there was no going back on the issue saying the government wanted an ‘orderly and well planned city.’ He said the police will pursue the land barons who ‘stole’ state land and then sold it to the residents.
The affected residents acquired land from individuals, some of whom had set up an office just next to the Chitungwiza Town Council headquarters. An audit has linked officials, including councillors and senior managers, to the scam. So far no action has been taken against the land barons, something which has made the residents question Chombo’s sincerity. Chombo himself has also been linked to various land related scandals in and around Harare.
A Saturday NewsDay editorial said if the government ‘watched while a crime of such magnitude took place under its nose’, people should rightly ‘wonder about the genuineness of Chombo’s remarks.’
Fortune Nyamande, an executive member of the Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association, said the government must prioritize the ‘swindled residents’ welfare. He said: ‘The land barons should be made to pay for this. In some cases, I am sure the houses can be incorporated to the council’s main plan. If they must destroy, the government should compensate the people because they built those structures through the Chitungwiza Council which is an arm of the local government.’
Nyamande said Chombo’s warning has left people feeling insecure and unsure of their future and has ‘created a lot of emotional and psychological trauma amongst those who were duped by the land barons.’ According to Chitungwiza town clerk George Makunde at least 4,000 houses stand to be affected by the demolitions.
A statement from the Chitungwiza Residents Trust said Chombo should let the courts deal with the matter ‘in a fair and transparent manner without any duress and prejudice’. The trust recently approached the court seeking an order stopping the demolition of the houses.