BY RICHARD MUPONDE
CABINET has approved the demolition of illegal structures built on wetlands and on land corruptly parcelled out by land barons throughout the country.
Task teams have already been set up to identify alternative land to settle the affected citizens.
Last week in his address to the nation, President Emmerson Mnangagwa slammed MDC Alliance-led urban councils for illegally parcelling out stands to homeseekers on wetlands and other pieces of land without providing facilities such as water, roads and sewage reticulation systems.
The current wet spell exposed urban councils after houses in Harare, Chitungwiza, Gweru, Mutare and other towns were flooded, leaving residents stranded.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa on Tuesday said task teams had been set up to look into the matter, especially alternative land before the demolitions of the illegal structures.
“… The identification of and quantification of all settlements in flood-prone areas, on illegal spaces and other irregular places and thereby enabling government to establish the magnitude of likely displacements from unavoidable demolitions,” she said.
“… The identification of suitable alternative land on which to relocate families and households facing displacement under the corrective exercise, both for temporary settlement and for the eventual construction of permanent structures.”
Mutsvangwa also said the teams were given a brief of mapping of wetlands and other ecologically sensitive spaces at growth points, in towns, cities and peri-urban areas.
“The exercise shall be expanded to cover the whole country in order to draw up a national masterplan of all ecologically sensitive spaces on which human settlements and related developments shall not take place. A national wetlands policy and guideline is being formulated in order to protect the environment for sustainable development,” she said
Mutsvangwa said Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga would head the exercise, which would also see the deregistration of all co-operatives which were captured by land barons, but ensuring that innocent co-operatives and bona fide homeseekers were not unduly victimised.
“There has also been construction of unapproved, sub-standard structures on illegal settlements created and controlled by land barons, rampant abuse of State and municipal land and encroachment onto private property,” she said.
“Land barons were working in cahoots with corrupt State and municipal officers and fleecing unsuspecting homeseekers. All those who broke the laws and by-laws on urban settlement will be brought to book without fear or favour.”
Cabinet noted that the incessant rains experienced since January have exposed a crisis that could no longer be ignored owing to their immediate impact on households, livelihoods and businesses.
The heavy rains have been flooding settlements on wetlands and in low-lying areas and destroying homes and property, with relocation of affected households turning out to be the only viable option.
The situation around illegal settlements has exposed irregularities and inadequacies in settlement setting, planning and management.
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