Deputy News Editor
Government is regularising illegal settlements that had mushroomed in Harare, after some individuals had used political muscle to parcel out land, resulting in the creation of land barons who swindled desperate home seekers.
It has been gathered that Government has cancelled offer letters to five housing cooperatives that had occupied private land between Kambuzuma and Marimba, paving way for the owners of the land to move in and regularise the settlements.
The move is in line with the national trust to ensure decent accommodation to the citizenry and will see the area now being provided with roads, schools, electricity, water and other social amenities.
The area has been under contest for more than 15 years after desperate home seekers settled on the land that belongs to Marimba Industrial Properties.
Over the period, Government has moved in twice destroying illegal structures erected by the settlers.
Former Local Government Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who is now a fugitive, tried to elbow out the land owners using political clout after extending offer letters to five cooperatives in the area.
The cooperatives included Joshua Nkomo, Mydek, Dzapasi, Wadzanai and Leopold Takawira.
However, Marimba Industrial Properties, the holder of title to the land, has been making manoeuvres to reclaim its property resulting in Government rescinding the offer letters to the cooperatives.
Reads part of the letter issued by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing; “This serves to confirm that all offers, held by yourselves targeting land cited above (Stand 48 of Aspindale Township), which had been issued by this ministry, are hereby formally withdrawn or cancelled.
“The owners of the company, in whose name the land is registered, have none-the-less been engaged by the ministry to discuss the way forward on the future of your irregular settlement.
“They have expressed interest to work with your beneficiaries to regularise the scheme on terms agreeable to both.”
In an interview, Aspindale Park operations manager Mr Micheal Swan confirmed they were ready to engage the settlers and had come up with a package to ensure no one is left homeless.
He said contrary to the view by some of the settlers, they were not moving in to destroy existing structures which had City of Harare approval, but would regularise them through construction of roads, schools, social amenities and ensure proper water and electricity connections.
“We have engaged our experts in town planning and drafting and they have come up with a map of roads that factor in the existing structures. So no property is going to be destroyed,” said Mr Swan.
“We want to provide the lacking supporting infrastructure to the area. Again we are pegging the stands at US$85 per square meter and the average stand size of these people are 250 square meters.
“They are required to pay five percent deposit which is about US$1 000 or the daily bank rate in local payment methods. The reminder we are giving them up to 20 years to settle.
“These people are also free to come and negotiate payment plans. We are not throwing anyone in the street. For those who have big stands and they can’t afford, they have a choice to release the extra land and if there are developments in the form of structures, we are paying them for those.”
Mr Swan said since the land already had people on it, they had indirectly adopted the community and will empower it with supporting infrastructure in line with capital city’s bid to move with international trends.
However, yesterday the settlers held a crisis meeting where the agreed to seek Government intervention over the price of the stands.
48 Aspindale Residents Association secretary general Mr Rashidy Hlomai said; “We are willing to pay the owner of the land, but the amount of US$85 per square meter is beyond our reach considering that we don’t get paid in hard currency.
“We are appealing to the land owner to consider pegging the stands at $30 RTGS per square meter and the deadline for us to pay by April 30 2019 is too harsh.
Dzapasi Housing Cooperatives chairperson Mrs Tsitsi Chaibva argued they had done some of the developments to the stands.
“Our cooperatives have serviced the land and what is left are roads. So why does the land owner demand such a huge figure for development,” she said