Harmony Agere

HOUSES that were built on undesignated land after December 2019 will continue to be demolished as Government can only regularise settlements that existed before this cut-off date, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Demolitions have been conducted in several parts of Harare in recent weeks in areas where stands were illegally allocated by land barons.

On the other hand, Government has been regularising some illegal settlements in line with a standing policy and recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry into the of Sale of State Land in and Around Urban Areas Since 2005 led by Justice Tendai Uchena.

Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe said no house built on undesignated land after December 2019 will be spared, as Government seeks to safeguard sanity and sustainable housing in towns and cities.

“We made a statement last year when the President made a policy pronouncement on housing. We said those that have already built, we are not going to demolish people’s homes but regularise. Only structures built close to roads, power and sewer lines will be demolished.

Minister Garwe said it was disturbing that some influential public officials were involved in the illegal parcelling out of land.

“Councillors and some high ranking officials took advantage of the situation and lied to people. Officials deceived home-seekers to build, telling them that the Ministry was going to regularise; that’s not true,” he said.

The honey moon is over for land barons and a three-month ultimatum has been issued for them to shape up of ship out.

Said Minister Garwe:

“The land barons were flourishing because they had development permits issued by Government. Some of them did not meet the conditions to provide infrastructure before selling land to home seekers. We are now giving them a maximum of three months or Government revokes that permit.”

As part of plans to transform the housing sector, Government will from next year, introduce the rented house system at affordable rates on properties built by the State.

“We cannot all own houses because land is a finite resource. So we are introducing the renting system. Most of the units will be high rise flats to preserve land. We need land for agriculture. If we continue settling people on all the farms, where will we get the food?” said Minister Garwe.

Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trusts (ZNOART) chairperson Mr Shepherd Chikomba urged Government to provide alternative land to those affected by the ongoing demolitions.

“As the apex body representing residents, we will support Government policy. We have always been against land barons that short-change home seekers. We are pleading with Government that those residents who are on undesignated settlements should be allocated land elsewhere. We believe that this should also be done promptly given that we are now in the rainy season. Some of those people affected by demolitions have nowhere else to go.”

Last week, Harare Provincial Development Co-ordinator Mr Tafadzwa Muguti said people who acquired housing stands illegally should stop any construction as demolitions will continue with particular focus on those defying eviction orders being issued by local authorities.