Harare City Council Swoops on 1 000 Illegal Settlers
THE Harare City Council (HCC) has resolved to evict over 1 000 families who illegally settled on the local authority’s three farms.
Since last year, the land hungry settlers, mainly ruling ZANU-PF party supporters, have been erecting residential structures right inside Ingwe, Crowborough and Churu farms, raising health fears because the farms, principally reserved for cattle breeding, are irrigated by sewerage waste water.
City of Harare’s acting corporate communications manager, Michael Chideme, confirmed the developments on Tuesday.
“They were given 48 hour notices to vacate the farms. We do not know when the eviction will happen, but it is not long. There is a clear buffer zone between human settlements and the farms to protect residents from the dangers associated with waste water,” he said.
Council, which is seeking to revive the farms following years of neglect, has warned it would soon evict the invaders and destroy their structures to build new sewer ponds.
The local authority is now enlisting the services of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to help it drive out the settlers.
This is likely to attract serious backlash from human rights groups, and could also raise legal complications.
Acting town clerk, Josephine Ncube, is understood to have been tasked by council to see through the eviction “as soon as possible”, according to minutes of a recent full council meeting.
According to the minutes, council’s finance and economic development and the environment committees met on June 23 and resolved to evict the settlers.
“Under matters for which the chairpersons’ consent had been obtained, the committees noted with concern the illegal occupation of Churu, Ingwe and Crowborough farms. The acting town clerk reported that the illegal occupations were based on anticipation that council would regularise these settlements. She further reported council was working with the Zimbabwe Republic Police to remove the illegal settlers from the farms,” the minutes read in part.
In the last few years, HCC had a vibrant farming business under which it bred quality cattle.
The cattle would be sold to abattoirs when the need arose and the proceeds were used to fix and maintain sewer and water reticulation plants, giving council financial self-sustainability.
But the once thriving cattle farms, where thousands of cattle could, once upon a time, be seen roaming freely in the plush evergreen pastures on the outskirts of the capital, particularly Budiriro and Kuwadzana, now resemble barren swathes of land.
With council’s business section collapsing, the financially hamstrung city has joined the central government in smothering residents with tax burdens.
But last year, council set out to revive the farms in an ambitious programme and placed them under the management of a private enterprise, Harare Sunshine Meats, which is wholly-owned by the local authority.
In December last year, City of Harare completed the rehabilitation of Firle and Crowborough sewerage plants, after which it started pumping the fertile waste water into the farms to irrigate pastures, including pockets occupied by the illegal settlers.
Council then urged the settlers to vacate the farms to avoid water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid, but they have refused to barge.
Eighty three housing co-operatives invaded the three farms, occupying over 100 hectares.
Last year, council had to seek the services of the Zimbabwe National Army to foil attempted invasions of two of its other farms, Porta and Pension.
Churu and Porta farms are currently unproductive, while the other three have cattle although their quality and quantity is presently a far cry from what the situation used to be.
All five council farms cover an area of about 4 000 hectares, potentially constituting a significant investment portfolio which should cushion council from the current harsh economic environment.
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