The Epworth Local Board plans to relocate up to 20 000 residents as part of a programme to regularise people illegally settled, a top official has said.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
Epworth Local Board chairperson Tafireyi Murambidzi told NewsDay on Tuesday that the relocation was meant to open new revenue streams for the council which is currently struggling due to lack of funding.
He said several projects had been lined up for the area, but these were being curtailed by unplanned settlements.
“We have about 20 000 residents to relocate as we are intensifying the process so that we can start new projects. We managed to secure funding from an international organisation that will enable us to start working on a $3 million project that we will announce soon,” Murambidzi said.
“That particular project, for instance, is being hindered by 200 families that are settled irregularly. When we came into office in 2013, the situation was bad as the population of ratepayers was less than that of irregular residents.”
He added: “This created a challenge, for instance, at clinics where one just goes and pays $5 and all the other medication is subsidised by rates. We ended up having a situation where we had a backlog all the time.”
Murambidzi said the situation had improved with more residents paying rates easing the pressure on the budget.
He said most of the residents were settled haphazardly on spaces where there was no provision for creation of roads and other infrastructure and services.
“We are targeting that by the end of the year we should have named all the roads in Epworth. You have some places where even at funerals people park their cars 100 metres or more away because there is no road, but that has to change,” he said.
He, however, said some of the residents were now playing the political card when the board is effecting the relocations.
“That is quite unfortunate, but pretty normal at the same time that people resist change.
“But it is wrong to play the political card when leaders represent everyone despite their political affiliation. The bulk of the people in the area were irregularly settled and that should not be politicised,” the Zanu PF councillor said.
“We have just met today (Tuesday) with the majority of the residents and they understand our goal as a council and they have agreed to be relocated.
We will now engage some residents that had taken council to court so that we can sit down and understand each other and stop the animosity.”
He lamented lack of financial support from government for infrastructure development, saying this was contributing to the slow development of Epworth.