MDC-T clueless on stopping ZANU-PF
A MEMBER of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T)’s shadow cabinet has admitted that his party does not know how to deal with ZANU-PF’s strategy of meddling with urban constituencies.
MDC-T’s secretary for local government, Eddie Cross, told the Financial Gazette that the opposition was in the proverbial catch 22 situation over the ruling party’s intensive drive to expand urban constituencies in selected towns and cities by creating new settlements under the National Housing Delivery Programme through which it plans to deliver over 300 000 housing units before the 2018 elections.
In an interview on the sidelines of a recent round table discussion that ran under the theme “Zimbabwean local government land distribution policy: An act of good faith or campaign strategy?” Cross said: “It’s very difficult to stop. It’s like the land reform (programme). All we did eventually was not to talk about it and we instructed our people not to take land even though Welshman Ncube did get a farm.
“We will have to fix the problem when we get into power. We are going to have to buy those farms, those properties from the former commercial farmers.”
He said that the 2000 chaotic land redistribution resulted in the creation of 60 constituencies on former commercial farms, areas in which the MDC-T cannot set its foot in for purposes of setting up structures.
Cross suggested that any other counter measures against the current strategy led by ZANU-PF’s political commissar and Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, could result in violence.
The MDC-T believes that the settlements are also meant to placate youths and prepare them for what the party fears could be a violent campaign in 2018.
“We can’t use violence in trying to counter ZANU-PF. All we can do is use persuasion. We have 1 500 houses we have identified in Harare which will have to be destroyed.”
But he said this would be done in an orderly manner.
“We will find alternative stands first and give residents six months’ notice. They will demolish the houses on their own so that they can salvage building materials which they will use at the new sites.”
Cross said that ZANU-PF had already created about 200 000 new stands in Harare alone and he pointed out that the ruling party was building on a strategy that had brought it victories in urban constituencies in 2013, including six in the previously impenetrable capital city.
“The housing cooperatives were the reason we lost some urban seats in 2013. This is a very powerful coercive system,” said Cross, adding that once people were organised under housing cooperatives it was easier for ZANU-PF to control their voting patterns in the same manner that it does in the rural areas.
Cross said that the only good thing that had come out of the chaotic settlements was that they had demonstrated that people could build homes by themselves.
“There are thousands of houses which have been built by organisations such as Old Mutual that can’t be sold because they are too expensive. But if you give people land they will build their own houses. This is the key to future urban development.”
Early this year many people lost properties built illegally after they were destroyed by the authorities.
Most of the houses had been built without support from financial institutions.
“I don’t think the private sector can compete with the cost of self-building. So I think the role of the private sector will be limited to providing goods and services. The informal sector does these sort of things so much better than the formal sector that it’s likely to be informal sector driven. Self-building is the way to go going forward,” said Cross.
Chitungwiza Residents Trust’s Marvelous Khumalo said that the settlements were just there to fulfill political schemes and did not meet urban planning standards.
“It seems the government does not have a plan for the people who migrate from rural areas to urban areas in search of employment opportunities. Most urban areas are eating into peri-urban and rural areas and it seems there is no proper planning on how to do this,” he pointed out.
The MDC-T governed Harare City Council has clashed with Kasukuwere over the issue of settlements ever since he assumed the local government portfolio.
Council recently declared that the allocation of 54 residential stands to ZANU-PF youths in Kambuzuma was illegal.
Kasukuwere had given the 54 youths, from the Joshua Nkomo Housing Cooperative, some 300-square-metre residential stands each.
Analysts believe that ZANU-PF knows that this is a simple, but effective system that can work to its advantage. The party simply expands settlements and any person who moves into the settlements automatically becomes a member of the ruling party.- By Farai Mabeza
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