In yesterday’s issue we carried a story titled Chitown residents, land barons get 3-week ultimatum in which residents were ordered to destroy houses built on illegal land.
Residents acquired the land from land barons, some of whom had set up offices just outside Chitungwiza Town Council headquarters.
It is unfortunate that these land barons are not being treated as what they are — criminals who fraudulently acquired and sold State land.
But this is understandable because the land barons were obviously working in complicit with top government and council officials in a scam to fleece residents.
Touring the town on Thursday, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo said: “We want an orderly city, we need sanity and a well-planned city. People should stop fraudulent land sales by self-styled barons who are eager to sell land not belonging to them.”
The big questions are: Where was minister Chombo and council officials when all these criminal activities were taking place?
Why did they let more than 4 000 illegal structures being built on illegally sold land sprout in Chitungwiza?
Fraudulently acquired land is not like sweets that can be concealed in one’s pocket, it is open for everyone to see.
What with big structures like houses built on it. So where was the minister whose moral sense of duty makes him want to see an “orderly city” and a “well-planned” city?
We smell a rat here.
If the Local Government ministry watched while a crime of such magnitude took place under its nose, we begin to wonder about the genuineness of the minister’s remarks.
The criminal land barons should have been arrested long back, but to the surprise of everyone with five senses, they were found in attendance during the minister’s tour.
Residents, who have no political connections like the land barons, will suffer double fate — the money they lost when they bought the land at inflated prices and the loss of the resources they used when they built the houses.
As if that was not enough, the residents will be left homeless. We will not be surprised if by contrast, the land barons are left scot free to enjoy the fruits of their plunder—which runs into millions of dollars by the way.
We will always have the questions: Where was the honourable Local Government minister when all this was happening?
Who else benefited from this scam that took place in broad daylight? Who protected the land barons while they went about their illegal business?
How were these people able to acquire State land in the first place?
There are more questions than answers and the minister’s pretence at professionalism does not wash. What we urge the authorities to do is to exercise restraint in whatever decision they make against the residents bearing in mind that they are victims of criminal land barons.
We implore the authorities, however, to deal ruthlessly with the land barons and their backers in high offices.