By Byron Mutingwende
The demolition of houses that belonged to thousands of people settled at Morecambe area in Harare South Constituency on Wednesday 26 October 2016 near the Mbudzi People’s Market brought to the fore the susceptibility of the land governance system to corruption.
The demolitions come hard on the heels of the impending rainy season, exposing the families of mostly the affected poor urban dwellers to the vagaries of weather.
“We started building houses on this land in 2014 after the leaders of our housing cooperative secured the blessings of the ministry of local government and some council officials to start putting up the structures. We were confident that our paperwork was in order since we had been spared when some houses in Caledonia and Arlington were razed to the ground, only to see the bulldozers coming to raze down our houses without any prior warning or a court as per the dictates of the law,” said one Newton Chiumburu, loading some roofing sheets and window-frames on to a lorry.
The move will likely exacerbate moral decadence with young girls likely to resort to prostitution and there is a high likelihood of the outbreak of diseases since the affected people were forced to relocate to other places by the police.
“Even if we will be given some makeshift tents, we will be overcrowded with our families and up to now no one from the authorities has promised to settle us in an area with water. The few lucky ones have been accommodated by their relatives but most of us have no choice except to live in the open as we ponder our future,” said Yvonne Gwaure (32), holding back some tears as she adjusted the shawl to secure her baby on her back.
Harare South Member of the House of Assembly, Shadreck Mashayamombe said that the land in question belonged to logistics company BAK Storage, which reportedly wants to construct a truck port.
The demolitions allegedly occurred when Mashayamombe was in Japan for a business trip. Upon his return, Mashayamombe approached the ministry of local government, public works and national housing and the Urban Development Corporation (UDCORP) with a view of finding alternative accommodation for the affected.
UDCORP has promised to roll out more than 500 000 stands in the country’s ten provinces in order to reduce the housing backlog that is currently standing at 1,2 million.
“As the Member of Parliament, UDCORP has given me 3000 housing stands in the Hunyani/Manyame of Chitungwiza) to accommodate the affected families. My advice to the affected is that in future, they must identify land approved for development not to settle anywhere willy-nilly. Local authorities have town plans, which must be adhered to. In 2005, houses in Ushewokunze Housing Cooperative were demolished but now that they are regularized, there are no more problems,” Mashayamombe said.
“Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) is implementing the five-year-long “Land and Corruption,” which seeks to contribute to improved livelihoods of men and women adversely affected by corrupt practices in land administration and land deals by promoting the security of tenure and equitable and fair access to land in rural, peri-urban and urban areas,” said Farai Mutondoro, the TIZ Harare Regional Coordinator.
Mutondoro said that political intimidation and interference, the lack of willingness by the authorities to prosecute or investigate matters concerning corruption at housing co-operatives made efforts to eradicate graft in society difficult.
Tendai Muchada from the Combined Harare Residents` Association (CHRA) called for the abolition of housing co-operatives and stated that land should fall within the jurisdiction of the ministry of local government alone.
“I regret to say that politics is at the heart land corruption, which leads to the partisan allocation. In my view, we need to formulate for policies that address land corruption,” Muchada said.
Dr. Manase Chiweshe highlighted the vulnerability of the urban land governance system to land corruption at a recent policy dialogue organised by Transparency International Zimbabwe.
“Institutions such as the police, the courts and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) have no capacity to address land corruption at the moment. That would ultimately result in the land governance system as a whole being susceptible to corruption. The culture of impunity and entitlement is the main cause of the current state of corruption in land governance issues,” Chiweshe said.
He bemoaned the outdated system of the deeds registry office and stated that this was affecting security of tenure and fuelling corruption since documents can easily go missing. He suggested that councillors must be required to declare their assets before tey assume office in order to be able to assess their assets and hold them accountable for assets that cannot be explained as a way of combatting corruption in the land governance sector