IN recent weeks there have been a number of issues raised by Harare residents regarding the demolition of illegal housing developments on land not approved for housing. The issues are very pertinent, hence, they have attracted a response.
Michael Chideme,Acting corporate communications manager,Harare City Council
Demolitions, like we have always said, are an act of last resort. City authorities derive no joy or benefit from seeing illegal structures fall. In fact, city authorities derive a lot of joy in seeing Harare residents follow city by-laws. City authorities have mounted vigorous campaigns against building houses on land not approved for housing construction and against buying land from bogus housing developers.
There are only two land authorities in Harare: the government (State land) and council (municipal land). Above all, the council is the ultimate planning authority, hence, it takes precedence in terms of land zoning and planning. Once people have been told to stop development, the logical thing is to stop and save investments. However, there are people out there who purport to have more muscle than the local planning authority.
The results of such hard-headedness are there for all to see. People end up losing their investments. The so-called land barons are quick to pass the blame. The easiest target becomes the local authority. It is in our prayers that all the land barons, who cheated the people, face justice through the legal system. The people who were made to pay for the land and also lost their investments should report the matter to the police and even sue the land barons.
The issue here is the people. Someone is taking the people for a ride in the false belief that no one is watching.
There are two distinct schools of thought on the issue of illegal settlements. There are arguments in support of the city’s actions against illegal settlements. Those in support of the removal of illegal settlements prefer the normative way of doing things. They want order and are against distorting Harare’s impeccable land use planning record.
On the other hand, are those arguing that Harare should normalise the abnormal. These people are in favour of a scenario where anybody can take the law into their hands and build as they please.
We will repeat our clarion call to the people of Harare: Be patient. Do not part with your money in a hurry. Verify with council offices before paying for any piece of land in Harare. Check whether the land is designated for housing and whether the land is in the name of the seller.
Harare City Council does not want to be known for demolitions. We want to be associated with proper development. We want all the citizens to identify with us. Maybe it is time all the land barons who have led us to the present scenario, to be named and shamed as part of the cleansing process. The law should again take its course against them.