Time for land barons to be caged

MANY Zimbabweans have suffered at the hands of land barons who have swindled their savings only for home-seekers to realise that they have been sold a dummy. A lot of structures have been demolished, leaving many home-seekers with everlasting trauma, aggravated hypertension, post-traumatic stress disorder.

guest column:Johannes Marisa

Some of the victims of the demolitions collapsed and had to be ferried to hospitals for emergent care.

It is difficult to imagine all the sweat involved in construction considering the cost of material, labour and the land itself. Somebody lined their pockets at the expense of the conned home-seeker.

The poor have been forced to become poorer in such scenario. What is worrying is that the pervasive conduct of these land barons continues to thrive under the nose of the law enforcement agents and municipal authorities, effectively exposing thousands of home-seekers to these evil and iniquitous conmen.

It is time these barons are arrested and given long jail terms to rid our society of such people.

The issue of land barons has reminded me of last week’s events in Zimre Park, Harare, where there was extensive demolition of all structures built in an area which was coded New Zimre.

At one time I almost got preyed to get one stand there but my instincts told me to stop as the so-called owner of the land was an arrogant chap who demanded a minimum of US$4 000 before conversing.

The man had so many agents affiliated to him and the other one was a company which was renting two rooms at Batanai Gardens in the city centre.

The same company at Batanai Gardens had at one time visited Harare Central Hospital in a bid to woo civil servants into joining its scheme.

My cousin sister paid US$5 600 to the same fraudsters and until now, nothing tangible has come out.

She was taken to the same area where demolitions were carried out last week.

After suspecting that the so-called 800 square metres could not be genuine because of pegs which continued to be moved daily, she decided to withdraw and until now, she has not succeeded in getting her money back.

Somebody appeared some days later and claimed that where she had been allocated was his place and he did not know the person who was selling the stand.

The matter was finally reported at Ruwa Police Station where officers are investigating, but the matter seems to be sluggish as it is now 12 months down the line and nothing has come out.

A Goromonzi prosecutor who dealt with the docket was advocating for a civil case on a matter which appeared more criminal.

The land barons boast that they can afford to defend themselves even to the last court on land. It is high time the nation stands firm against the land barons if our country is to move forward.

It was good news when in October 2020, Harare provincial development co-ordinator Tafadzwa Muguti said that with immediate effect, government would start asset forfeiture from people like land barons.

The assets of those who acquired wealth illegally by selling land which was not theirs, would be possessed by the State and the proceeds of the asset sales will be forwarded to respective municipalities.

This is a welcome move if it is going to be implemented. The land barons have made many suffer while they thrive on our blood. Many have been strangled to abject poverty yet society knows them by names. These people should be stopped forever.

In August, the Zimbabwe National Army had to seek council authority to demolish at least 20 houses built in the cantonment area in Belvedere West. Those who sold the land are still roaming around in flashy cars while the conned masses are now pauperised to the extent of failing to pay rent in high-density suburbs. What is infuriating is that the land barons can hire top lawyers to defend them because they accumulated wealth from the illegal sale of land which never belonged to them. Why are people allowed to build on land which has not been cleared? Why would State land be parcelled out to people without the signature of the Local Government minister?

Is it that there are cartels that have taken over the power of local authorities by conniving with some staff members to issue offer letters? It is thus my belief that for people to keep a check on the land barons, the following can be done:

lLocal authorities should work hand in gloves with the police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. All newly-created suburbs should be investigated thoroughly before construction is allowed to commence. It is better for home-seekers to listen to what local authorities say about a particular area. Ruwa council chairman Kizito Chivafa advised me against buying land in New Zimre.

lPolice should expeditiously move to investigate all reported cases of illegal sale of land and the land barons should be arrested. Many people believe that the land barons are untouchable because they name-drop politicians.

lOur courts should not be lenient with land barons. The case of my sister was at one time taken to Goromonzi court where the prosecutor was adamant it was a civil case yet she had been conned of US$5 600 for her to be shown somebody’s land.

lThe land barons should be forced to refund all those they received money from. In majority of cases, they are allowed to roam the streets yet those they fleeced of thousands of dollars are languishing in poverty. It is time for refunds and the costs of construction in case of demolition should be borne by the same land barons.

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