Tension is rising over the land issue in Harare, Chitungwiza and other major cities across the country with Zanu PF accusing the opposition MDC Alliance of running down urban areas as well as being the architect of parcelling out of land.
BY MOSES MUGUGUNYEKI
On the other hand, MDC Alliance says despite having been in control of urban areas since its inception more than two decades ago, there has been undue interference on the affairs of urban local authorities, especially Harare and Chitungwiza by the ruling party.
The opposition believes Zanu PF wants to reclaim urban councils by deploying repressive strategies, which for long it has been using in rural areas.
However, MDC Alliance Local Government secretary Sessel Zvidzai [SZ] in an interview with our senior reporter Moses Mugugunyeki [MM] thinks otherwise.
The former executive mayor of Gweru and one-time Local Government deputy minister during the government of national unity said all Zanu PF’s efforts to win the urban vote by hook or crook would hit the brick wall.
The government, Harare City Council and Chitungwiza Municipality say they will next month start demolishing houses built on land that was illegally parcelled out, but Zvidzai argues the solution lies in first dealing with Zanu PF-linked land barons.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
MM: Zanu PF seems to be using the land issue and deploying a cocktail of strategies to reclaim its political clout in major cities, particularly in Harare and Chitungwiza.
From an MDC Alliance point of view, what’s your take?
SZ: Zanu PF is causing serious disorder in urban areas.
Working through land barons, fake co-operatives and political aspirants, Zanu has been giving away state land corruptly to well-connected individuals and cooperatives.
These entities have been fleecing unsuspecting people of their money, allocating land in wetlands and encouraging the sprouting of unplanned settlements without basic services such as water, roads and sewage reticulation.
The very same Zanu PF and its provincial ministers and coordinators is at the forefront of demolishing houses in the same state lands they allocated people.
There is nothing more sadistic than this.
The pattern is that the houses are destroyed during the winter season or in the middle of the rainy season in order to exact maximum pain on innocent citizens.
Surely, this is not the way to re-endear oneself with the people.
MM: In February 2018 President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed a Commission of Inquiry Into The Sale of State Land In And Around Urban Settlements whose mandate was completed in October last year and the findings presented to the president a month and a half later.
It appears the president is taking his time to release the findings of the commission to the public. What is the MDC Alliance’s take on the commission and what do you think is causing this delay?
SZ: The Justice Tendai Uchena Commission made very shocking findings around the abuse of state land throughout the country and particularly in Harare Metropolitan province.
State land worth more than $3 billion was given away to Zanu PF-linked co-operatives, aspiring Zanu PF MPs and other well-connected people.
Only land worth $300 million intrinsic value was recovered.
It is the same land that Zanu PF through its network of proxies has settled people without necessary infrastructure for services.
The network of proxies is cooperatives, trusts and fly-by-night land developers.
These are nothing, but conduits for corruption by people in high offices.
The commission also established that new urban settlements were created by Zanu PF aspiring and sitting MPs in order to mobilise political support.
Names of top ruling party leaders are regularly used to exert pressure on government institutions, the commission established.
All these activities are at the centre of the creation of opportunity for land barons and criminals, who in cahoots with powerful politicians have been selling state land and causing the growth of unplanned settlements
Clearly, the findings of the Justice Uchena Commission are an indictment on the central government through the Lands, Local Government and Small to Medium Enterprises ministries.
As a result, the president is reluctant to publish the full report as it will locate the problems of the unplanned settlements, attack on wetlands and disorder in urban local authorities right at the doorstep of Munhumutapa Building.
In addition, the revelation that nearly $3 billion of state land “has gone missing” would put government into shame as people demand accountability.
MM: There were reports to the effect that MDC Alliance carried out its own investigations on the land issue in Harare and Chitungwiza. Could you share with us some snippets of your findings?
SZ: Our own investigations on land are in complete agreement with the findings of the Justice Uchena Commission.
At the centre of the drama are Zanu PF people and its proxies, the Local Government ministry, which stirs confusion so as to steal state land.
There is also the Lands ministry, which allocated land along partisan lines to the connected for political opportunity while the Small to Medium Enterprises ministry registers fake co-operatives for purposes of stealing state land.
MM: Local authorities in Harare Metropolitan province are complaining about undue interference of the provincial development coordinator’s office in their affairs, what’s the MDC reaction to this claim?
SZ: Mr [Tafadzwa] Muguti, the provincial development coordinator for Harare Metropolitan province, has paralysed activities at the councils in Harare and in Chitungwiza.
His penchant to micro-manage city affairs is legendary. Yet he is an unlawful creation of control mongers at State House.
Muguti has managed to completely destroy governance and service delivery in Harare.
However, the people of Harare know what is happening.
For this reason, he will one day have to answer for all the culture of illegality and impunity that he is cultivating.
He is also making sure that the people know clearly who their enemy is, Zanu PF.
And come next election, the people will punish Zanu PF again in Harare for refusing to devolve power to them.
The three tiers of government are interconnected and where central government has no clue on how to run the economy, sub-national governments are affected.
Worse still, central government interferes so much with sub-national governments that in reality it is actually central government that is running all tiers of government.
On the other hand, the combination of Zanu PF, Douglas Mwonzora and Muguti has removed 22 councillors in Harare, two sets of mayors and deputy mayors and the town clerk and heads of departments at Harare City Council.
Effectively, Harare City Council is being run by an unelected team of July Moyo, Chidawu and Muguti.
It is worse than a commission.
MM: Do you think the MDC Alliance still enjoys the ordinary voter’s support in the wake of the disturbing events happening within local authorities?
SZ: As MDC Alliance, our response is to be on the side of the people, fight to get people’s representatives back so as to attend to the business of the people.
By-elections should come now so as to bring back normalcy at Harare City Council.
We will put shoulders to the wheel to get the mayor back. We cannot allow Harare to float around without a captain at the helm.
The party is working quietly in the communities, putting important questions and answers on the table on how to tackle the pandemic, how to fight for the down-trodden and fighting corruption.
Our party machinery and the recalled councillors are with the people in the informal markets, at the clinics and in the urban agricultural plots, making people aware that there is only one way to deal with poverty and deprivation, a telling blow and that is voting massively against Zanu PF at the next plebiscite.