…Spreads to RDCs
…Scandal on Govt agenda
LIVINGSTONE MARUFU/ TINASHE MAKICHI
Top officials at Rural District Councils (RDC) are conniving with village heads in the illegal sale of State land especially in peri-urban areas across the country, prejudicing the government of millions of United States dollars.
They have gone to the extent of advertising State land in various social media platforms and this practice has been prevalent around all urban areas across the country, an investigation by Business Times revealed.
Village heads, according to the local government statutes, are mandated to allocate land to land seekers in consultation with RDCs where after getting the land the individual is then included in the village head’s registry.
But, it has since been discovered that village heads and RDC officials are taking advantage of the existing legislation to milk the government of potential revenue through selling State land that is ordinarily supposed to be given for free.
Consequently, desperate land seekers have been fleeced of over US$25m yearly with village heads and rural district councils being accused of buying the latest vehicles and residential properties in Harare.
This has been prevalent in areas closer to Harare such as Ziko in Chitungwiza, Domboshava, Mazowe, Norton, Juru, Goromonzi and Murewa.
Goromonzi West MP Energy Mutodi confirmed receiving reports on land scandals in Domboshava.
“That is the common issue in Domboshava right now and I have received such reports but I am told the council is seized with the matter right now,” Mutodi said.
An investigation by Business Times revealed it’s also rampant in Masvingo, Gweru, Chegutu, Chinhoyi and Kadoma.
Business Times can report that there are WhatsApp and Facebook groups that have since been created for the selling of such stands.
The price ranges from US$1 500 to US$5 000 depending on the size.
Consequently, there has been a sudden spike in demand for these rural residential stands because of their affordability.
Village heads and RDC officials are making a killing. It is estimated that close to 35 000 people have benefited from the illegal sale of peri-urban land, according to the Local Government ministry.
Village heads in Domboshava and Murewa are said to have built houses in Tynwald and Madokero allegedly using proceeds from selling State land.
A village head in Goromonzi, who requested anonymity, told Business Times: “As you are aware, there are rising issues of illegal stands in Harare and they are generally expensive so people of late have opted for peri-urban stands which are cheap and closer to Harare.”
“Therefore village heads have been selling the land to land seekers, but the money has been going to village heads individual pockets.”
The illegal selling of State land is likely going to trigger another wave of demolitions of structures in the rural areas.
Located 50 kilometres east of Harare, Juru Growth Point is another area where various people are flocking to buy cheap land from village heads and rural council officials.
Some residents in Marimo and Rukainga in Juru have benefitted from this exercise.
“Two years ago, I managed to get a two-hectare piece of land for US$3,700 here in Marimo through the village head and I’m doing various projects where I am selling vegetables, road runners, broilers, rabbits and goats locally and in Harare,” a beneficiary told Business Times this week.
“In total I used up to US$6,000 to get this land as there was a lot of competition from others in Harare environs who wanted to buy the same land so I had to buy some goodies for the village head and the rural district council officials to shrug of competition.”
Various RDCs are in the eye of a storm with peri-urban residents accusing the council officials of enriching themselves at the expense of residents as they continue parcelling stands at a time when service delivery is at all-time low.
Documents obtained by Business Times reveal that under-hand dealings are happening in Dema, Domboshava, Ruwa, Goromonzi and Juru.
Chamu Nheweyembwa, chairman of the Murewa Business Association, said the local authority has been ignoring complaints about the matter.
“Year after year, residents fight due to double allocations done by the council and the council has prejudiced residents of thousands of dollars.
Their thrust has shifted from serving the rural folk to self-serving interests. Our community is not against modernised infrastructural developments but the set-up should not come at the expense of essentials,” Nheweyembwa said.
“The stands are now beyond the reach of many locals but Harare residents come with gigantic amounts of money.”
The council has also been accused of forcefully evicting some villagers from their land to pave way for urbanisation without compensating them.
Currently the council is involved in a High Court dispute with some villagers’ over compensation and alternative resettlement.
Some council officials, according to Nheweyembwa, were allocated houses in Murewa as part of their managerial package.
But, since 2005, some of them have been travelling from Harare to work daily at the council’s expenditure.
“The executives use a councilallocated VW Amarok, which is expensive both on consumption and service, as their personal cars.
They are manipulating council resources to advance their private gain,” he said.
Business Times reported last week that a syndicate of top officials in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement were cashing in on the rising demand for land to parcel out State land.
National Housing and Social Amenities minister Daniel Garwe confirmed receiving reports and said the law was going to take its course on all illegal settlements including those in rural areas.
“We have received reports of mushrooming illegal settlements in Domboshava and the whole country in general.
These are disturbing reports. Also as you are aware village heads fall under the jurisdiction of Chiefs and the Chiefs also have a role to play in reining in those wayward village heads,” Garwe said.
Harare Metropolitan Province Minister Oliver Chidawu also confirmed receiving reports citing that the matter was now under the government agenda.
“This is obviously criminal and the law has to take its course but there has to be effective enforcement,” Chidawu said.