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Waterfalls sand pits claim 3 lives

Local News
Residents told NewsDay in interviews that the problems in the area have been compounded by land barons who are parcelling out land without following procedure.

Three children have died while several others have survived after a spate of drowning incidents in the Retreat area of Waterfalls, Harare, where sand poachers left huge open pits that have filled up with water during the current rainy season.

Uncontrolled sand poaching in the area, which falls under Hunyani constituency, is haunting residents with the rainy season exposing them to several dangers.Residents told NewsDay in interviews that the problems in the area have been compounded by land barons who are parcelling out land without following procedure.

A co-operative in the area is reportedly charging land seekers between US$150 and US$500 depending on the space one wants without being given deeds to the property.Retreat Housing Union chairperson Gideon Dzitiro expressed concern over the way illegal land barons and sand poachers are claiming stands and areas in the name of the ruling Zanu PF party’s name.

“Some of the people coming to claim and allocate stands are using the party’s name, claiming that they have been sent or are entitled to occupy the land,” he saidHunyani legislator and Tourism and Hospitality Industry deputy minister Tongai Mnangagwa bemoaned the errant behaviour of land barons and sand poachers in the area.He castigated people claiming to have been sent or allocated land in the constituency by Zanu PF, adding that they were giving a bad impression of the party which was, however, not aware of their activities.

“Zanu PF didn’t assign anyone to allocate stands nor is it aware of the individuals claiming to having been sent by the party to do so.“It actually came as a shock and we are in the process of reclaiming the land that has been damaged by the illegal activities,” he said.“Illegal poachers are digging and removing sand, leading to serious land degradation and water is accumulating in the open pits.

“With the current rainfall season, the water is filling up the open pits and young children go there to swim, leading to unnecessary loss of life.“It is sad that every rainy season, we have deaths because of this in my constituency and two children, a 12-year-old and 16-year-old, drowned in December last year.”He also confirmed the death of a toddler in an open pit.

Mnangagwa revealed that they had initiated a programme where land seekers will be allocated land through a presidential programme which regularises their stands and issue them with title deeds.

“Basically, what we are doing as the government is that we have embarked on the regularisation programme where residents will receive title deeds,” Mnangagwa said.“We are identifying suitable areas for residential purposes using technology indicating the areas that would be serviced while those staying in those pits and wetlands would be removed.”

Mnangagwa also revealed that the process had already started in wards 3 and 8.“We have already issued the tittle deeds through the presidential programme and we have identified the beneficiaries,” he said.“We are going to remove those who have settled close to the dams and the illegal poachers digging and removing sand leading to land degradation will also be removed.”

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