Councillor accused of frustrating housing project

Source: Councillor accused of frustrating housing project | Sunday Mail

Sunday Mail Reporter

MDC-Alliance (MDC-A) councillor for Ward 14 in Goromonzi District, Mzwake Banda, has torched a storm for attempting to frustrate the Chishawasha Urbanisation Project that seeks to develop over 7 000 residential stands.

He is reportedly mobilising residents to resist plans to either compensate them or move them to areas designated for relocation to pave way for the project.

Chishawasha Land Development (Private) Limited – a company owned by the Catholic Church’s Jesuits – successfully acquired a permit for change of land use from agriculture to residential use two years ago.

In February 2018, the project was approved without any objections from council for the development of a mixed settlement, complete with amenities, about 25 kilometres north-east of the capital city Harare.

In terms of the permit, the project, which is being implemented by Integrated Properties, is divided into seven phases.

The first phase involves the development of 2 139 high-density residential stands, while the 4 861 stands will be low-density units that will be spread over the remaining six phases.

While the land is privately owned, several families had moved to settle on the property, some with the consent of the Jesuits while others did so illegally.

A condition precedent to the implementation of the project was that the developer had to accommodate or relocate families settled on the farm.

Those not willing to be settled within the proposed new urban setup and preferring to continue with a communal or rural lifestyle would then be compensated for the improvements and be resettled.

This was, however, to apply to 856 families who settled on the land before 2000.

Cllr Banda, who arrived in the area later, is now trying to persuade villagers to resist relocation or compensation.

Sources privy to the goings-on said Cllr Banda is fearful that several villagers whom he parcelled out land to could be forced to seek redress through the justice delivery system.

A spokesperson for Integrated Properties confirmed the development.

“The project is consistent with Government’s drive towards addressing the housing backlog, urbanisation, promoting infrastructural development and halting the mushrooming of unplanned and haphazard settlements that pose harmful impacts on the people living in these settlements.

“While there could be challenges causing the project to delay, we remain confident of the voice of reason prevailing. The project developers have the requisite approvals to move ahead with the project . . .” said the company’s spokesperson.

Chishawasha Land Project P/L were not available for comment.

Cllr Banda, however, said he is not resisting relocation of people but there was need for consultations.

“We told them that the Chishawasha residents were not illegal occupants — they have been there since time immemorial, we want to move with them step by step. We also told them we want to sit, talk and negotiate with the people so that we have a win-win situation,” he said.