FOR Churu Farm residents, it has been a case of, so near yet so far, for more than a decade.
Churu Farm is an illegal settlement that is located on the periphery of Harare’s high density suburb of Glen View.
“I settled here in 2004 and my home was demolished in 2005 during Operation Murambatsvina and again in 2008. In these two instances, this settlement was about to be regularised and handed over to the City of Harare,” said Ananias Mapanzure, a resident of this sprawling settlement.
Murambatsvina, officially known as Operation Restore Order, was a campaign by the Government to clear mushrooming slums across the country.
Another local resident, Lucia Masvaure, is anxiously awaiting the regularisation of the settlement.
“As you can see, I am not getting any younger. The regularisation of this area should have been done a long time ago. I am no longer employed and even if our stands are regularised, some of us will not be able to build decent homes,” she said.
However, for Tonderai Marongwe — one of the people that have been superintended over affairs at the farm — reckons it will not be long before the place is legalised.
“Were it not for the outbreak of the coronavirus, we would have had this place regularised by now. We were in the process of normalising this settlement before
Covid-19 derailed our plans,” he said.
Marongwe said the residents had applied to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement to change land use from farming to residential.
With 4 600 households, the number of people that call Churu Farm home is not known.
When The Sunday Mail Society visited the settlement last week, some of the houses which were built on a wetland were flooded and the severely damaged road made the settlement virtually inaccessible.
Without basic amenities such as running water and ablution facilities, residents of this settlement rely on shallow wells and makeshift toilets.
A few others have, however, constructed big houses.
Marongwe added: “Our hands are tied. Without a parallel development permit from the Ministry of Local Government (and Public Works), we cannot further develop this area. Once the permit is granted, we will then be able to come up with a proper plan and layout.”
Without basic amenities, there is high risk of an outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.
Residents of the settlement, including those that oversee the land, are not sure whether the plot belongs to the Zvimba Rural District Council or the City of Harare.
“We are in Zvimba but under Harare,” quipped Marongwe.
Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme was equally not certain about the jurisdiction under which the settlement lies.
It is, however, hoped that the Government will move in to bring sanity to most of the illegal settlements dotted around the country.
“ . . . Cabinet resolved that ministries, departments and agencies, work in concert in order to stem the tide of neglect and malpractices around illegal settlements.
“All those who broke the laws and by-laws on urban settlement will be brought to book without fear or favour,” said Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa while addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing on Tuesday.
Apart from the uncertainty and a real threat of communicable diseases, Churu Farm residents are battling crime.
Criminal activities are rampant in the area.
Infamously referred to as “KuManhunzi,” (place of the flies), the area is nestled on a piece of land that was previously a dumping site, hence the name.
The settlement came into being after Churu Farm was subdivided into residential stands.
Most of the former farm workers were left homeless as a result.
Over the years, prostitutes, vagrants, drug addicts and wanted criminals have made the area a convenient haven.
Sandwiched between Glen View 1 and Glen View 1 Extension, the illegal settlement is a narrow strip on which hundreds of plastic shacks are crammed in a long, single row.
It is estimated that hundreds, if not thousands of people, call this shanty area their home.
But unlike other settlements dotted across the country, this particular area has a reputation for accommodating dubious characters.
There are illegal drinking spots, where illicit brews such as kachasu are sold in broad daylight.
“Crime is rife here, with residents being raped and mugged. I strongly suspect that people living across the road are responsible for this,” Mariam Nyamasoka, a local resident said.
Land barons are illegally parcelling out stands to homeseekers, with those who have already settled being asked to pay money on the pretext that council would regularise their stay in the area.