Dispute to cost home seekers
MORE than 300 home seekers at the centre of one of many controversial residential land allocations in Harare risk losing over US$200 000 in an intriguing case of double allocations.
The 310 home seekers belong to five housing co-operatives mired in a land dispute between two organisations that are claiming ownership of the same piece of land at Retreat Farm in Harare South.
Among the dozens of people the Financial Gazette came across in Harare South, in an area called Pabani, part of Retreat Farm situated south of the capital, was Masco Masoka, who three years ago was elated that his search and dream to own his own place had finally been fulfilled.
However, hardly had he and his family settled in their two-roomed small cottage did his dream turn into a living nightmare.
Another home seeker suddenly turned up at his 300-square-metre stand and did the most unimaginable thing. The new arrival dug a foundation for his own cottage so close to Masoka’s dwelling that the wall completely blocked Masoka from getting into his house, forcing him to open another entrance on the side of the small house.
The development signalled the beginning of an enduring living nightmare that haunts Masoka up to this day.
The new arrival had been allocated the same stand and was determined to push Masoka off the property.
Further prodding revealed that Masoka’s case is child’s play.
In other instances, three or four people were allocated the same piece of land and have proceeded to build structures; and all are not prepared to give up the land for the other.
Masoka and his other 309 colleagues paid more than US$200 000 for the stands located on Stand 315 of Retreat Farm, and how hordes of other home seekers from other housing co-operatives later invaded their pieces of land is intriguing.
According to information gathered by the Financial Gazette, the five housing co-operatives were affiliated to the Harare South Housing Co-operative Association Apex Board (Apex Board) chaired by a Tonderai Nkomo. Each of the five co-operatives paid US$5 000 on May 28, 2012 and all the 310 members of the five co-operatives each paid a further US$600 as planning and survey fees.
The co-operatives were subsequently allocated land by the Waterfalls district administrator’s office on September 18, 2012 on Stand 315, a subdivision of Retreat Farm, just east of Waterfalls.
However, in December 2012 some of the managers of the Apex Board, led by the organisation’s treasurer, Antony Muchato, broke away to form their own organisation called the Harare South Housing Union (Union), which was registered on December 29, 2012 and immediately started laying claim to the very same land, stand 315, which the five co-operatives had been allocated. The Union proceeded to dish out stands to new beneficiaries from other co-operatives.
Serious disputes have since ensued and spilled into the courts after the Union insisted that it was the legitimate administrator of the land while the Apex Board argued that it was the lawful overseer.
Documents in possession of the Financial Gazette suck in officials from the Ministries of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, and Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development.
In a letter dated June 7, 2015 and addressed to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, the five aggrieved co-operative charged that the housing co-operatives led by the breakaway Union corruptly “secured some (dubious) letters and documents (from the Ministries of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing; and Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development) to cause mayhem and double allocation on land legally occupied by the five co-operatives.”
In the letter, the co-operatives implored the Local Government Ministry to thoroughly investigate the Harare South stands chaos, “which we suspect and believe is driven by corruption, greed and sharp violation of good governance principles characterised with accountability and transparency by those in leadership positions, which would have negative impact on housing delivery systems or objectives as contained in the government blue-print Zim-Asset”.
The Ministry of Local Government has interestingly distanced itself from the dispute through letters to the Apex Board and its lawyers respectively, saying: “…our office hereby withdraws all actions done after the formation of the Harare South Housing Union. After the resolution of all the misunderstandings, squabbles and disputes, our office will be of continued support in all your development endeavours.”
Contacted for comment, Apex board chairman, Nkomo, said the dispute remains unresolved and the issue of double allocations had since affected another 200 civil servants who are currently battling to get back their pieces of land after being ejected.
The Union leader, Muchato, first booked the Financial Gazette for an appointment but later his phone was answered by someone else, who said the paper had called a wrong number. Persistent calls to his cell number went unanswered.
Further investigations, however, led to political infighting within the ruling ZANU-PF party whereby Muchato, who formed the breakaway organisation is said to be fighting Nkomo, the Apex board chairman, who happened to contest against the area’s Member of Parliament, Shadreck Mashayamombe, during the party’s 2013 primary elections.
Muchato, who was Mashayamombe’s campaign manager, is said to be seeking more political influence over Nkomo, who is the ruling party’s secretary for security in the area.
“This is all politics at play,” said one source, who refused to be named fearing a backlash given the explosive nature of housing issues in Harare South.
Investigations by the Financial Gazette have established that the chaos in Harare’s residential land allocations runs deeper than previously thought and that the scandals involve government officials as well as some ZANU-PF bigwigs who are taking advantage of the chaos and impunity for land barons allocating land in the many settlements that have mushroomed in and around the city since the 2000 land reform programme.
Emerging out of the mess of these haphazardly constructed residential settlements is serious political meddling as well as central and local government lethargy in dealing with the so called land barons, many of whom now appear untouchable and so cheeky that they continue to illegally parcel out land without even batting an eye.