BY STAFF REPORTER
Cash-strapped Chitungwiza municipality might be losing at least $4 million annually to politically-connected land barons, preying on vendors and were now desperately trying to derail efforts to restore sanity in the dormitory town, a council official has said.
Town clerk George Makunde told NewsDay last week that council was losing about
$161 850 per month translating to $1 942 200 per year to the land barons.
“The figure excludes the over $2,4 million per annum that council has been prejudiced by those who have been occupying its properties without paying anything to council,” he said.
“The $2,4m was as at October 31 2018. It may have increased or decreased, whereas the $1,9m is based on the $30 per month that the space barons charge.”
According Makunde, the barons were charging as much as $50/month for vendors and other informal traders operating at Chikwanha, Zengeza 2, 3 and 4, Jambanja, Unit L, Makoni, Huruyadzo and Chigovanyika flea markets and pocketing the loot.
Makunde said the figures could be higher as they were based on the 5 395 informal traders registered with council.
“It’s the duty of council to create and allocate stands, what is their (barons) locus standi or concern? People must learn to respect the rule of law, others are developing their areas, while here we want to build musika [markets] on prime land. We can’t have that,” the Chitungwiza boss said.
“Now that council is trying to reorganise and get revenue, some people are now crying foul. We will never build this country through intimidation. They were benefiting all along and are now fighting the system to force it to revert to the old order, council is the only allocating authority here. It’s a bitter pill. They were used to disorder; the barons don’t want order, they were affected heavily by the recent exercise.
“Council and residents can’t continue to suffer while they take the loot home and don’t pay anything to us yet they are subdividing and sub-letting our property. We want to grow our town and change its face, we are tired of those who are bent on causing mayhem in our town, we can’t have that, that time is now past.”
Makunde said trouble started when one of the barons who is a former Zanu PF councillor got wind of the fact that council was carrying out an exercise to repossess its bars it had leased to people who were now subdividing them and subletting the properties and not paying anything to council.
He added that the former councillor, who has a case before the courts involving a stand, had also tried to coerce council to fabricate a letter to support his case.
Chitungwiza is one of the hardest hit areas in terms of illegal land allocations and several government audit reports have pointed at Zanu PF officials as leading the vice.