Vusumuzi Dube and Robin Muchetu, Sunday News Reporters
BULAWAYO City Council former workers are refusing to vacate council properties and are instead subletting them with some having turned the properties into brothels to raise money, it has emerged.
Council-owned accommodation is offered at subsidised rates by the local authority to its employees and previously it has been a source of disgruntlement among employees amid allegations that some sublet the properties at higher rentals, prejudicing other employees who would be desperate for accommodation.
However, it has since emerged that some retired workers who were under the security department have been refusing to vacate council rented properties in Makokoba and are subletting them, with some turning them into brothels.
According to the latest council report, out of 142 units within the Bulawayo Municipal security compound just 15 were occupied by serving employees.
The units which are a tied accommodation format (provided as a part of a person’s job and is conditioned by the worker’s continued employment) have their rentals pegged at $35.
“The Security Administration was responsible for allocating the housing units to the security guards.
When a staff member retired he/she was given three months’ notice to vacate the premises, the office would then re-allocate the house to another deserving security guard after such allocation they will forward the name to the Housing Office for record keeping and update.
“When the Security Section was moved to Chamber Secretary’s Department the system then of tied accommodation eventually collapsed.
The retired personnel were no longer given three months’ notice to vacate the premises.
They then remained there with their families who were non-council employees or sub-let the premises prejudicing serving security guards,” reads the report.
The local authority noted that 90 percent of the tenants that were now benefiting from the accommodation were non-council employees, this thus means council resources were being squandered by undeserving people.
“Subletting was a norm in Bulawayo Municipal Council (security compound), which was mostly done by former council staff. When they reached retirement age they hold on to premises resulting to subletting which was against council by-laws.
Some tenants use these housing units as brothels.
The housing units were now congested resulting in cost of maintenance of the property being expensive,” reads the report.
In a bid to address the impasse the local authority has since resolved to give non-council tenants three months’ notice to vacate the premises.
“To resolve the problem non-staff occupants be given three months notices to find alternative accommodation and vacate the rooms.
The BMC units be allocated to serving uniformed members of council these being Bulawayo Municipal Police or rangers.
Administration of the units be done by Director of Housing and Community Services (Mzilikazi Housing Office) who shall maintain a register of staff in the relevant sections in need of accommodation,” reads the report.
In debating the matter councillors noted that there was a need for council to have a clear housing policy on council tied accommodation and accommodation for staff members.
“Alderman Monica Lubimbi supported the report.
She felt that council workers especially lower grades had no accommodation.
Most council workers could not afford to purchase residential stands.
The Deputy Mayor (Councillor Mlandu Ncube) supported the report.
He emphasised the need to review council’s conditions of lease for tied accommodation.
Council staff members in tied accommodation must be reminded that accommodation was only provided for during the employment period.
After registration, death and retirement tied accommodation lease expired,” reads the report.
Meanwhile, council has managed to resolve 5 295 cases of double allocations of stands in the Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle area in Cowdray Park since the Government handed over the programme to the local authorities with 65 cases having been solved in May.
When beneficiaries were allocated stands in the area, there was a challenge of double allocations that had taken place which saw several beneficiaries discovering that they had been allocated land together with other beneficiaries.
Council corporate communications manager Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai project has 15 119 residential stands and double allocations were never done by council.
Mrs Mpofu said, in his handover speech, the former Minister of Local Government (Dr Ignatious Chombo) provided a policy framework to guide implementation in view of the challenges encountered in the programme.
Council at its meeting of 4 April 2012 adopted an organisational structure and a policy framework to spearhead the implementation of the project consisting of a steering committee and a technical team tasked with project structuring and project delivery and comprising all stakeholders involved in the project.
Council in another meeting in August of 2012 then further resolved that the proposed project implementation’s structure to facilitate Hlalani Kuhle Cowdray Park project hand over from Government to council is established from which a help desk was established to resolve the double allocations.
Mrs Mpofu said the terms of the handover also included that first priority was to be given to beneficiaries who had already constructed structures on the stands.
“Second priority should observe those beneficiaries who have paid development fees to the Bulawayo Home Seekers Consortium Trust and Lease Fees to council.
Beneficiaries should obtain lease agreements and pay for the required lease fees to Council.
“Council is required to identify additional land for the surplus beneficiaries and ensure no genuine beneficiary is prejudiced because of the double allocation exercise,” read the terms.
Councillors had also expressed concern over the double allocations of stands saying the regularisation had taken too long with the matter having gone on for the past 10 years without being finalised.
“The mandate to allocate council land is bestowed on council which is the planning authority of the area under its jurisdiction.
There should be no other allocation at Cowdray Park phase 2 of Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle project without the concurrence of council. Council to give attention to the provision of social amenities that are lacking and to avoid destroying structures built by beneficiaries,” read the terms.
Furthermore, BCC has identified land that they want to develop into residential flats in Cowdray Park as a means to augment housing delivery in the city.
Early in the year council availed land for over 500 stands in Umganin and Emganwini areas.
Council also noted that there has been an instance in the city and particularly Cowdray Park Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai where unscrupulous individuals enter and build on allocated vacant stands.
“In view of the above, the Council resolved to regularise those developments by the bona fide owners subject to payment of the usual penalties.
Furthermore, in those stands where the owner claims not to have built the structure, the bona fide owner reports to the police and removes the structure without the involvement of council.
Failure to remove or regularise the structure the owner will be subject to heavy penalties in terms of council policy and by-laws,” she said. – @NyembeziMu