Zanu PF — still basking in the glory of its resounding but heavily disputed election victory — has reportedly embarked on an ambitious membership drive which includes annexing and regularising several illegal peri-urban settlements dotted around Harare to extend its hegemony.
REPORT BY STAFF REPORTER
Investigations by NewsDay indicate Zanu PF has already mapped out plans to dole out land to its members who have formed apparently pseudo-housing co-operatives in Mbare, Chitungwiza, Epworth, Budiriro, Kuwadzana and Kambuzuma, among many other areas.
Party officials said the grand scheme was also aimed at neutralising the MDC-T’s support bases ahead of the 2018 elections. Since 2010, Zanu PF youths have grabbed several council properties in the central business district and Mbare, including market stalls and Carter House, with impunity.
Zanu PF in its 2013 election manifesto promised to address urban housing shortages.
Part of the manifesto reads: “After the forthcoming elections, the Zanu PF government will embark on a vigorous housing programme to address the housing backlog of 1,25 million using financial resources from assets to be unlocked from the indigenisation of foreign-owned companies.”
Recently, President Robert Mugabe also said his government would consider self-contained human settlements at the periphery of major urban centres as a means to decongest cities.
Zanu PF provincial youth chairperson for Harare Jim Kunaka last week confirmed that the project was ready to roll, but denied that it would benefit Zanu PF members only.
“We will not let people die of hunger and we will make sure, as a people’s party, we will not look at which party an individual belongs to, but will work for the good of anyone,” Kunaka said.
But Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa yesterday said: “It’s false, absolutely false. If anything, we are stopping it. There are people doing it purporting to be Zanu PF. Zanu PF does not do anything silly and corrupt like that.”
MDC-T sources said the matter was also raised at the party’s recent caucus meeting where newly-elected councillors and mayor were tasked to work harder to block any attempts to regularise the illegal settlements.
“The reason why we want a person (mayor) who can be equal to the task is because Zanu PF is building its strength by giving out land on illegal space on the outskirts of Harare,” an MDC-T source, who attended the party’s caucus meeting to counter Zanu PF campaign strategies, said.
Some of the settlements are located at Hopley Farm along Chitungwiza Road next to a council farm, in Mabvuku known as KwaBob, along Masvingo Road near Granville Cemetery, and in Hatcliffe.
In Chitungwiza, a Zanu PF “gang” led by a newly-elected councillor is allegedly parcelling out unoccupied council land among its members.
“Zanu PF youths led by a councillor-elect (name given) are invading open spaces, parcelling out stands to each other without council approval, Chitungwiza is now finished,” a source said. “They are doing that in Unit A, Unit C, Unit K, Unit J, Unit L, Unit O, Zengeza and St Mary’s and are saying it’s part of Zanu PF ’s empowerment programme. It is chaotic and unplanned.”
Mabvuku former councillor Enias Gengezha said the illegal settlement near the high-density suburb has ballooned since the run-up to the July 31 polls, with the current population now estimated at more than 5 000 people, most of them suspected to be Zanu PF members.
The illegal projects have reportedly affected values of nearby properties like in Damofalls in Ruwa, where illegal stands pegged at KwaBob are selling for around $400, while genuine housing co-operatives are selling the same stands at around $8 000.
Chairman of Harare City Council’s housing and community development committee Charles Nyatsuro said: “Our only hope now lies in constantly pushing the (new Local Government) minister to be appointed to move in and act on this. The last time, there were resolutions to deal with the issues, so we have to see to it that they are implemented.”
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party would not be annihilated by the Zanu PF land grabs and illegal extension of the capital by Zanu PF activists.
“Zanu PF may try every trick in the book, but MDC will not disappear. In fact, we have regrouped and strategising and are ready to give Zanu PF a devastating blow come the next election, be it in six months or 2018,” he said.
Environmental Management Agency spokesperson Steady Kangata deplored the parcelling-out of land, saying it was illegal for residents to embark on a housing project without his organisation’s approval.
“They are not supposed to develop these areas without an Environmental Impact Assessment first, which should bring out issues like how solid and liquid waste would be managed and what open spaces would be left,” he said.