Jail land barons

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The story carried in yesterday’s issue of this newspaper about massive land grab executed with flagrant impunity by individual land barons in Chitungwiza, and the conviction yesterday of another land thief from Harare’s Hatcliffe suburb Justice Zvandasara, exposes the extent of national plunder and greed among Zimbabweans.

NewsDay Editorial

We must applaud the action that the courts have taken thus far – convicting one such character – in the hope, of course, that they will mete out the kind of justice that deters such behaviour.

It is inconceivable how individuals get the guts to grab urban land and start distributing it to desperate home seekers whom they charge huge amounts of money, which loot they pocket, as if the land in our cities ever belonged to individuals.

If reports about one Fraderick Mabamba from Chitungwiza are true, then there would be no better example of a behaviour characteristic of a country that has gone to the proverbial dogs.

For how could one imagine a situation where an individual, who is really nothing more than a mere councillor in terms of political or social power, would wield so much power and influence as to end up grabbing, without being questioned, vast tracts of land in a city where many thousands have spent decades on the housing waiting list? Some say this man now owns a sizable percentage of the total land in the city of Chitungwiza.

This Mabamba fellow is believed to own at least six schools – some of them built in swamplands without regard of the law; shopping complexes in a town where individual businesspeople would sacrifice an arm and a leg to get a single small stand to put up a grocer’s shop; and many hundreds of residential stands.

Reports that this man has even named some of the schools after him (Mabamba so-and-so school etc) clearly shows the impunity with which some people go about breaking the law.

The law in Zimbabwe clearly states that no one individual can be allocated more than one residential stand in an urban area. The reasoning being that there are thousands of people on waiting lists of every city and town in Zimbabwe and every one of them has an equal right to be allocated a piece of land to build their own home.

So, how does one person acquire hundreds of stands and start selling them off as if he were himself the local authority? As if that were not enough, the prices that these criminals are selling the stands verge on the obscene. Standard prices for a standard size residential stand in Chitungwiza range around $200. But, according to reports, Mabamba is selling the hundreds of stands that he mysteriously found himself owning for up to $4 500 each!

NewsDay investigations found that Mabamba’s hired land brokers are actually operating from the doorstep of Chitungwiza Town Council head office. The report also said senior officials within council confirmed Mabamba’s alleged land shenanigans in the town, but said they were powerless to do anything about it. In fact, they said they knew he drew the power and influence that made him invincible from some source which is clearly so high up it cannot be questioned or challenged.

In this case therefore, the onus is on our courts of law to bring into the open all these unanswered question and expose the secret behind such arrogant power flexing that make some people this much more equal than others!

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