Scores of people, including war veterans, Zanu PF supporters and vendors kicked out of their houses in Chitungwiza on Monday wept bitterly accusing House of Assembly member for Chitungwiza South Christopher Chigumba of being dishonest after ordering their eviction.
REPORT BY MOSES MATENGA
PICTURES: AARON UFUMELI
Chigumba who claims to own a co-operative that built the houses from members’ contributions is allegedly demanding $5 000 cash from beneficiaries in addition to what they contributed over the years. He claims contributions by members of the co-operative, Zano Remba Housing Co-operative, which were made during the Zimdollar era, were no longer valid.
Nine families have so far been evicted and have for the past two weeks been sleeping in the open, under the vagaries of the weather.
More than 300 other families have also been threatened with eviction. When NewsDay visited Chitungwiza yesterday victims shed tears while others showed scars from alleged beatings by the police acting on an order from the courts to evict them. The families accuse Chigumba of abusing his powers as patron of Zano Remba Housing Co-operative and taking the co-operative from them for his personal aggrandizement.
“We started this co-operative in 2004 with the help of the then governor, the late Witness Mangwende, and we were paying Z$200 000 a month. It was State land for low-income earners and that’s why there are war veterans, soldiers, war collaborators and vendors,” narrated Mavis Chibanda, one of the victims.
“We made Chigumba our patron because he was representing our party (Zanu PF) as MP. We had faith in him and our party.
“We were surprised in 2009 when debt collectors came saying the co-operative was Chigumba’s property under Chigumba Holdings and each of us had to pay $5 000,” she said. NewsDay established that in 2005, government ordered Chitungwiza Municipality to surrender more than 1 000 housing stands to Chigumba ahead of that year’s general elections.
In the video below, evicted residents speak out on their experiences
The late Mangwende had then said council should exempt the Zanu PF-aligned cooperative from submitting their plans for approval by the council.
Beneficiaries of the scheme, who have turned out to be victims, said they were shocked that Chigumba was now claiming to be the owner of the properties.
“We later realised he had not registered the co-operative and we tried doing that as residents. We got the certificate in May last year from government,” said another victim.
Chengeto Mbiragai said she was handcuffed together with her 28-year-old son and husband and beaten up by the police for asking why they were destroying their property in the process of evicting them.
Western Konde, a war veteran said he was also handcuffed and beaten up.
Irene Hove, a war veteran and chairperson of Tongogara District War Veterans section who doubles as the Zanu PF chairperson for Rusununguko district wept uncontrollably as she spoke against Chigumba’s actions against fellow war veterans and the poor.
“I have taken this issue with the provincial war vets leadership who are yet to come back to me on what position to take. But we are worried that he is now acting like a conman and not a politician who should stand up for the people. We sacrificed as war veterans, but we did not fight for this torture,” said Hove.
Contacted for comment, Chigumba denied that Zano Remba was a co-operative saying it is his personal housing project run along business lines.
He accused the evicted families of being crooks who were being evicted for refusing to pay for their houses.
“Go to Zengeza 4 and see people who are running that project. These people (evictees) are wrong, giving you wrong information. They are being evicted by the house owners not me. It’s not a co-operative.”
The receipts that contributors to the housing project were issued with, however, indicate the project is indeed a co-operative — Zano Remba Housing Co-operative.
The receipts also show that beneficiaries had been paying monthly instalments of Z$200 000 per month for several years from as far back as 2004.
Meanwhile, an audit team has been put in place to investigate the co-operative after several thousands of members who contributed did not benefit from the project.
Government has also produced a damning report revealing shocking housing stands scams in Chitungwiza.
Thousands of home-seekers stand to lose their properties as government seeks to correct the anomaly.