Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Correspondent
land barons found guilty of occupying or illegally selling State land as well as settling people on undesignated places will spend five years in prison, while repeat offenders will be jailed for 10 years, Local Government, Rural Development and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has said.
The revised Regional, Town and Country Planning Act, Minister Kasukuwere said, is a tougher piece of legislation as a result of lawlessness in the country and will require local authorities to act without fear or favour in dealing with illegal land dealers irrespective of their standing in society.
At such, he said, Government will not hesitate to wield the axe on under-performing local authority executives if they fail to deal with land barons as well as restoring sanity and cleanliness in both rural and local authorities.
Minister Kasukuwere said this while addressing delegates at a joint meeting of provincial and district administrators, chief executive officers, town clerks and secretaries in the capital on Friday.
“With regards to uncontrolled residential developments, the Ministry is working on the amendment of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act to ensure that punitive measures are taken for all those selling land illegally. Where it was fines, we have now said any first offender who illegally sells land and develops it will get a mandatory sentence of five years jail time,” he said.
“There is so much lawlessness in our country and this time, there will be no scared cows. I am saying don’t be bullied by anybody as long as you follow the laws of our country, we will defend you 100 percent. Whether it is a powerful man or woman, if you break the law, we will deal with you. In rural areas, some traditional chiefs are busy settling people on state land and you remain quiet, why? In urban areas it is the same where illegal land barons are selling state land. There are two authorities that are mandated in terms of the law: the state and local authorities.”
Minister Kasukuwere said local authorities should now act with speed in restoring order in towns and cities following President Mugabe’s dissatisfaction on the state of lawlessness in Harare’s Central Business District.
In terms of housing provisions, Minister Kasukuwere said all local authorities should now shift to model high-rise flats. He said this will refrain urban and rural local authorities from eating into agricultural land.
“We were given the direction by the President. We should not expand carelessly,” he said.
“If you are now going to build houses, build cluster houses, they cater for more people. The population is increasing. We are going to build going up. This is cheaper even when it comes to offering services delivery,” he said.
Minister Kasukuwere then urged the local authorities to increase revenue collection through the installation of pre-paid water meters as well as embracing plastic money and promoting the ease of doing business in their operations.
He said Government is going to give giving the local authorities tools to do their work and then urged the officials to ensure quality service for the people.