CORRUPTION and poor management of Harare City Council properties has seen ex-employees, who must vacate rented flats within three months of resignation or retirement, subletting the properties and pocketing between US$250 and US$400 monthly some decades after leaving employment, the Herald can reveal.
Some of the flats are now occupied by girlfriends of council top brass or ex-bosses, who are not even paying anything to council.
In the event that the ex-employee dies, his wife and children may “inherit” the council flat and continue subletting without any follow-up or checks by the housing department.
A number of the houses appear to have been totally forgotten and no longer in the council records.
This happens at a time when serving employees are hit hard by accommodation challenges.
While the workers are struggling to pay rentals to private property owners, the bulk of council properties that must benefit them, are being illegally occupied by non-employees paying foreign currency to corrupt ex-employees.
According to the local authority’s housing policy document, if a council employee living in rented flats resigns or retires, he or she is given up to three months to leave the property and pave way for others.
“It shall be council policy that on leaving council service, employees residing in institutional houses should automatically lose the privilege of residing in rented property and be given until three months from the last working day to vacate the premise,” reads the policy document.
The same document compels council to evict all illegal occupants whenever they are discovered but the housing department is either sleeping on duty or corruptly allowing the illegality.
“Where illegal occupants occupy rented accommodation, council shall institute eviction procedure,” reads part of the document.
The Herald embarked on an investigation to establish the truth.
As part of the investigation, reporters were sent to various council houses where it came out that most occupants were illegal.
It also came to light that most of the tenants had verbal agreements with serving workers and others who have since left employment.
They are being charged between US$250 and US$400 depending on the size and the location of the property.
Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said all the sub-lettees will soon be evicted.
“We are seized with the matter. We have compiled the names of all people staying in council accommodation with a view of regularising stay in social housing and ensuring that all people in institutional houses are bona fide city employees.
“People who do not work for council will have to vacate. Sub lettees will lose rights to council properties,” said Mr Chideme.
When The Herald visited Trafalgar Court along Julius Nyerere Way in Harare, investigations revealed that flat Number 10-01 was allocated to a former traffic enumerator called Gumiso Bhonzo who left council a decade ago but council did not evict her until she gave it to someone else identified as I Chinengundu.
It was not immediately clear how much Chinengundu was paying to the ex-council employee monthly but he is not employed by council, neither does he have a lease agreement with the local authority.
Flat number 10-06 of Trafalgar Court, according to council records, was once allocated to Eunice Mushunguwasha, who retired over 20 years ago from her employment as chief clerical officer but someone known as T Kadirire, a non-council employee is illegally there.
A check with flat 5-14 revealed that the property was allocated a former senior clerical officer called Matibhiri but someone called Tafadzwa Mudangwe has been staying there for years, without any council agreement.
At Glen Norah A flats, the property used to be occupied by the late former administrator in the Town Clerk’s department, but is reportedly being illegally occupied by other non-council employees against council policy on housing.
In Mbare, two houses along Third Street (one painted green and the other one white) near Edith Opperman Maternity Clinic was a hive of business activities with traders selling nuts, beans, maize and other farm produce.
Investigations by The Herald revealed that the houses were part of council’s “forgotten properties” which are being illegally occupied by people who use it commercially.
Interviews with the elderly in Mbare revealed that the houses were part of Edith Opperman Clinic previously housing the clinic’s resident doctor and a caretaker in the 1970s before the properties were hijacked by some unknown elements.
When The Herald visited the properties, some people were busy shelling nuts, while others were cooking food for sale to traders.
Most farmers from the rural communities sell their produce from that house, despite having properly designated markets in Mbare.
Despite the property being residential, it has since been turned into a commercial property where traders pay rent to the landlords without council’s involvement.
A number of council employees interviewed by The Herald expressed ignorance of the history of the property and whether or not it was council property.
However, it could not be established whether council was getting anything out of the two properties.
At Glen Norah B flats, number 6577, allocated to a serving employees called Mungate is now being occupied by a non-council employee with reports that the legitimate tenant is now staying at his own house at Hopley.
Flat number 6572, allocated to another employees called Japi, is now accommodating a non-council employee.
Harare Residents’ Trust spokesperson Mr Precious Shumba blasted the local authority for the rot saying the beneficiaries of the scam must be exposed.
“The City of Harare is being run by corrupt cartels involving serving and former councillors and officials.
“They all thrive on the chaotic situation. The beneficiaries of this scam should be exposed and made to fully account to the citizens who sustain the council,” said Mr Shumba.