Harare residents have quizzed the government over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s promise to regularise some informal settlements including the populous Epworth where hundreds of title deeds were handed out ahead of the August 2023 harmonised elections.

Mnangagwa promised to dole out more than 11 000 title deeds to Epworth residents a month before the polls while Cabinet endorsed the Kwangu/Ngakwami Presidential Title Deeds Programme Consortium.

The programme was expected to provide the financial and technical support required for the issuance of the title deeds.

Mnangagwa followed up handing out 265 securitised title deeds to Epworth residents and pledged to avail more as he launched the programme at Epworth High School.

A title deed is a formal document legally defining how a property is allotted by an authority, owned and transferral by the holder.

However, NewsDay has learnt that only a handful of people with close ties to the ruling Zanu PF party received the title deeds and the Zanu PF government appears to have abandoned the project post elections.

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“Only a few were issued, those with close ties to Zanu PF right. Land barons led by John Mabwe (co-ordinator and spokesperson for Kushinga Epworth Residents Trust) and Moyo are holding Epworth Local Board at ransom contesting the authenticity of the layout plans and general plans of Epworth Court cases of stands boundaries and questions unanswered even the surveyor general up to now is sleeping on duty,” sources told NewsDay.

Mabwe said the layout plan did not correspond with a map that was made in 2001 when squatters received occupiers’ cards.

“The layout plan that was used does not match with the map. We have simply challenged this. A lot of elderly widows and orphans were left out of the 2022 layout plan which was not even approved by the Surveyor-General.

“We want title deeds as early as yesterday but we want the right procedure to be followed and the right people to benefit. In ward 6 (Overspill Extension), council pegged stands using a fake layout plan of Plan number H.O.F 8 and increased them from 3 856 to 3 904 to benefit some council officials (sic).

“So the regularisation process is very scandalous. Council is doing what the High Court interdicted. That’s contempt of court.”

Epworth Town secretary Wilton Mhanda refused to comment on the matter.

Contacted for comment, National Housing and Social Amenities secretary Theodius Chinyanga requested questions in writing, adding that he could only respond today.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba, who is accompanying Mnangagwa to the African Development Bank Group 2024 Annual Meetings at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya was not available for comment yesterday.

Epworth North legislator Zivai Mhetu said residents had received deeds of grant not title deeds.

“There is a difference between deed of grant and a title deed. Development has to take place first, for instance the installation of roads, among others.

“When this happens, Epworth residents will be able to receive title deeds in both paper and digital form. Hence, I will be lobbying Parliament for the construction of roads in Epworth,” he said. A deed of grant is basically issued on land where there is no title deed except for a certificate of State title.

The rights to the property in question are granted by the State to the beneficiary in question and the State can include any conditions precedent to the transference of the rights.

Conditions can include land use and other related matters.