By Sowell Chikwari
HARARE City Council housing department senior officials have been accused of engaging in underhand dealings facilitating land grabs through corrupt syndicates.
This comes as municipal police officers heavily descended on Green View Housing Cooperative members in Westlea indiscriminately beating up people before demolishing their housing structures without warning or producing a court order.
Speaking to this publication, Timothy Rugwenya, Green View Housing Co-operative treasurer said, “the disruption of our activities by the municipal police in favour of individuals who were corruptly allocated residential stands on our ground by unscrupulous council officials is meant to frustrate us.
“Our cooperative was found in 2015 and ever since we have processed the requisite paperwork including applications, EMA certificate, change of reservation, layout plan, road designs, and other developments on the ground. We had been engaging them as well as the Local Government and Public Works ministry all along and we were waiting for regularisation. We were surprised when truckloads of municipal police officers pounced on our members, displacing them while openly encouraging the said individuals to take over the ground which has since culminated into sporadic violent outbursts. It’s all about corruption. They corruptly seek to displace us and award our stands to the said individuals despite that we have done all the required paperwork.
“Some of these corrupt council bosses were recently arrested on related charges and have pending court cases. They are so determined because they seek to pacify those people who were duped to influence inquiries into their clandestine activities which were exposed.”
Green View Housing Co-operative chairman Joseph Chari, who was among those assaulted said, “when they arrived they did not produce a court order or any document, the just randomly beat up everyone. They were aided by hired known CBD thugs (mahwindi) in committing these acts.”
Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said”Citizens should never entertain land barons or individuals within Council or Councillors to manipulate them to pay huge amounts without cross-checking with their respective district officers and town planners.
“Violence is a danger to society. Disputes should only be settled through legal means and never through self-action. Those engaging in violence should not hide behind their emotions to brutalise each other. The rule of law is a key tenet of a democratic society, and every citizen must respect the law.”
The demolition breached Section 74 of the Constitution which states that: “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.”
Shumba also added that “no one must ever build on Council land without following the laid down procedures outlined in both the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29.15) and the Regional, Town, and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29.12). It is most unfortunate that a lot of corrupt residents allow themselves to be convinced by corrupt Councillors and municipality officials to part with their hard-earned money for land that belongs to Council without verifying with the owners of the land. The City of Harare should continue to raise awareness on the due processes to be followed when securing their land.”
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Harare City Council spokesman Michael Chideme were unsuccessful as his mobile phone was not reachable.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies have since tightened their dragnet on illegal land deals which have nabbed several municipality officials and land barons whom they worked with hand-in-glove.