In the past decade the Ministry of Local Government has settled some 300 000 families in urban areas of land in and around the urban councils. Most of this land was in the form of farms acquired by the State under the land reform programme and remains contested as compensation has not been paid to owners.
The objective of this programme has been to create areas of urban settlement that are totally vulnerable to political pressure and intimidation. In 2005 and 2013, these illegal settlements were used to influence the outcome of the elections by forcing settlers to vote for a particular candidate or face eviction or destruction of their structures.
These informal settlements were also used by the ruling Party, Zanu PF, to enable a number of “Land Barons” to act as developers and to sell stands to individual families for sums varying from $5 to $20 per square metre. In the process many of these individuals accumulated millions of dollars. In the majority of cases these families did not get any of the services they were promised.
Some of these properties have now been incorporated into Urban Councils for administration and service provision. Two such properties – Hopley Farm and Caledonia Farm, occupied by some 240 000 people, have been incorporated into the City of Harare. There is no sign or record of the millions of dollars paid by these families to the individuals who carried out this exercise on behalf of the Ministry of Local Government.
Now, in preparation for the next elections, the Ministry is proposing to settle hundreds of thousands of families on land that is virtually being given away for nothing. This exercise was launched last week in Mutare and attracted thousands of homeless people. Similar settlements are planned in all urban areas.
The MDC wants to make its position quite clear. The actions of the Ministry and the Minister are not only illegal; they are ill conceived and criminal. The victims of this cruel scam who take up the offer will not only be occupying land that does not belong to the State but may also be outside the planned housing schemes in urban areas. Therefore services of water and sanitation as well as roads and electrical power, will be difficult or even impossible to provide.
MDC Led Councils will not cooperate with this exercise; any attempt to use Council land for such hair brained schemes will be challenged in Court.
We appeal to the general public to be patient. All MDC led Councils are now following a programme which will, within a short period of time, provide all who want to live on a permanent basis in the urban areas, a plot of land within their means with security of tenure and all necessary services. The programme, which is already being implemented, includes the following steps:
- The Councils to identify land that is suitable for housing.
- The Council to undertake the required planning and survey.
- Allocation of the stands to people on the waiting lists.
- Sale of the stands at a price determined by the cost of servicing.
- Provision of title deeds when payment is received in full.
- Provision of house plans for approval and normal building inspection during construction.
- Assistance, where possible, with long term loans at a reasonable interest rates to stand owners for construction.
This will mean that all home owners in these schemes will have freehold title to their properties, the provision of all required services by the Councils and access to schools, clinics and recreation as well as inner City transport systems. They will then be able to express themselves freely in any democratic elections.
Efforts are being made in all areas controlled by the MDC Councils to formalize existing informal settlements on a basis that will meet the needs of the affected families, avoid destruction of property and facilitate the proper, orderly settlement of these Communities with security of tenure.
Secretary for Local Government