Residents attack Chombo over barons

via Residents attack Chombo over barons May 17, 2014 by Edgar Gweshe NewsDay

CHITUNGWIZA residents on Thursday blasted Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, accusing him of double standards on the move to demolish houses built on undesignated land in the town while letting land barons go scot-free.

The residents said the level of impunity with which the land barons who corruptly parcelled out stands at undesignated areas was a clear indicator that they had “enough political cover” which could only come from Zanu PF.

Speaking during a discussion forum organised by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust (Chitrest), residents said the illegal land sales and constructions took place while Chombo was in charge, appointing a number of commissions that purportedly looked into problems bedevilling Chitungwiza.

“If Chombo was really genuine, we should have seen the arrest of the land barons, but alas, they are walking scot-free while Chombo is busy tormenting innocent people who were duped of their hard-earned cash,” a resident identified as Marko Makhosa said.

He added: “It boggles the mind how someone would allocate a piece of land to himself and later on sell it while Chombo was watching. We know that some of these land barons are connected to Zanu PF and could have been acting as Chombo’s front men.”

Speculation is rife that one of the Chitungwiza land barons, Fredrick Mabamba — a Zanu PF party member — has close links with Chombo

Residents blamed the minister for all illegal structures in Chitungwiza, saying he had over the years been exercising overbearing influence on local authorities and had let land barons have their way.

Another resident, Memory Tawuya, said Chombo was only trying to cleanse his image while at the same time turning a blind eye to the problems that would befall the families set to be affected by the proposed demolitions.

“We have all seen how Chombo has been interfering in the affairs of most local authorities, especially those under the MDC. So it is a farce that Chombo would want to tell us that these structures should be demolished while they were built at a time he was interfering so much in the affairs of Chitungwiza,” she said.
Tawuya questioned: “Is he trying to tell the nation that he slept on duty?”

The residents also said Chombo’s push for the demolition of houses showed that some people were above the law as he was turning against the victims instead of the land barons who sold land illegally.

“First, Chombo wants to demolish houses without offering alternative accommodation and in doing that, we think he is trying to put himself above the law,” Gilbert Musena said.

“Second, why is it that he is not focusing much on the need to arrest the land barons? That is supposed to come first, but with the way things are being done, we are left to suspect that the barons indeed worked with Chombo.”

Former Zanu PF special interest councillor Wilfred Gwekwete drew the ire of residents at the meeting when he said the residents had themselves to blame for the impending demolitions as they had built on undesignated land knowing fully well that the practice was illegal.

“As Zanu PF, it is not our plan to displace people, but the truth is that those who were settled illegally were aware that this was unlawful,” Gwekwete said.
“If you approach the council and you are settled legally, there can be no reason for the government to call for your eviction later on.”

Human rights lawyer Marufu Mandevere said the land barons must be prosecuted.

“The people who are behind the illegal land sales are free as we speak. So why should those who bought the stands be persecuted?” Mandevere queried.

“We are saying that the land barons should be prosecuted and as human rights lawyers, we are going to stand by the people of Chitungwiza.”

Chombo, who has several houses and stands in numerous towns and cities countrywide, could not be reached for comment.

His properties and riches were revealed in court during divorce proceedings instituted by his former wife, Marian.

The demolitions were temporarily stopped by the court last month.

This was after Chitrest, through their lawyer Mandevere, filed an application seeking an interdict order barring the local authority from demolishing the houses.

Chitungwiza Civil Court magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa granted Chitrest’s application and dismissed council’s arguments that the court lacked jurisdiction, that the applicants had no legal basis and that the wrong procedure was used.

Gofa said the applicant cited that the homes were their only shelter and demolishing them was an infringement of their constitutional rights.

She said no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.

“Thus, the interdict order is granted and respondent is barred from demolishing the houses of applicants,” Gofa ruled.