DZ demolition: occupants suffer as crooks go free

More than 100 houses that were built on disputed land in Dzivarasekwa (DZ) Extension Phase 2 and other areas around Harare will soon be demolished to make way for the legal owners to occupy their stands.

Some of the ‘illegal’ houses in DZ Extension Phase 2 Housing Scheme that may be demolished.
Some of the ‘illegal’ houses in DZ Extension Phase 2 Housing Scheme that may be demolished.

The current occupants are set to lose out as they had acquired the properties from corrupt officials at the national housing department. A High Court Order against 113 occupants in DZ Extension was issued by High Court Judge Mathonsi in October last year and has now been enforced.

Government has announced a crackdown on illegal settlements that have mushroomed across the country. Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo announced two weeks ago that all illegal settlements in Chitungwiza and Harare would be torn down. Neither Chombo nor his deputy, Joel Biggie-Matiza, would comment on the fate of the alleged perpetrators this week.

Corruption in the allocation of houses, flats and stands by high ranking officials in the ministry has been going on for some time, with many enriching themselves by getting preferential housing for family members or girlfriends. But, even after the cases have come under public scrutiny, no concrete action has been taken against the perpetrators.

Fake letters

The DZ Extension scenario presents an interesting case in that the illegal occupiers had paid for the stands to some crafty officials within the department of national housing, where they were issued with fake offer letters under the Pay-For-Your-House-Scheme. They have been resisting eviction, saying they had already built houses on the stands and demanding compensation for their improvements.

They were advised to demolish their structures within seven days of receiving the notice. An official at the ministry’s legal department said he was now waiting for the go-ahead from Chombo to have the structures demolished or the stands given to their rightful owners. The ministry’s permanent secretary David Munyoro is said to have written a letter to the department advising that government was about to demolish the illegal stands and evict the occupiers.

“We are just waiting to do things right instead of working on a case by case basis. You have to understand that this is a very sensitive exercise, but there is no going back on this issue,” the legal officer said.

Bought the stands

Investigations by this paper show that, although the High Court Order (No. HC 9587) was granted in October last year, the ministry has been hesitant to evict the occupiers as some of them had political connections or had ‘bought’ the stands from con-artists who had worked in cahoots with government officials. It is not known what action government intends to take about its employees who have taken part in the scam – who so far are continuing their work unhindered.

Most of the occupiers had already paid-up their deposit and monthly contributions under the scheme. Although the situation is rife in DZ Extension, there are known cases of such fraudulent activity in other areas where the government had built houses, flats and serviced stands, such as Willowvale, Mufakose, Manresa, Tynwald and Budiriro under schemes begun in the 1990s.

One of the affected Harare residents, Cecelia Bepete, said she had applied for and been allocated stand No. 6993 under the DZ Extension scheme in March 1996, but was advised that government had run out of funds to service the project. She was surprised to see her stand occupied by Brighton Chibango, who also claimed ownership, when she went to make inquiries in 2007.

On the list

“The next time I went for a routine check I discovered that the same Brighton Chibango had erected an outbuilding and slab on the stand. During this time the Ministry had published the names of the official owners of the stands and my name was among the list,” said Bepete.

“I understand this was the final list after the cleaning up of the alleged scam involving some employees who were selling stands already allocated to other people. The press statement was advising people with published names to come and pay money required for the processing title deeds. I came and paid the required amount of $50. This is at the stage that I advised the ministry about Chibango occupying my stand,” she wrote to the department.

Chibango would not budge and has continued to occupy the stand to this date, ignoring various court orders and eviction notices. According to sources, Chibango is well connected to some ministry and party officials and has several stands in the same area. He is currently staying at No. 4647 DZ Extension, Phase 1 of the same project.

Rightful owner?

He claims he is the rightful owner and filed an opposing affidavit to the Harare Magistrates Court (No.859/11) in which he says he was allocated the same by the Ministry in July 1999. An offer letter in possession of this newspaper, dated 20 November 1998, signed by two different people indicates that Chibango was offered the same stand that he went on to develop.

“In fact, by the time the purported offer of my property was made to the Applicant (Bepete) I had already erected a house on the stand and was residing there with my family,” he said in an affidavit.

When this newspaper visited the stand last week, Chibango referred all queries to Tawanda Tandi of Kantor and Immerman, his legal representatives. Tandi was not available.

Another affected party, Nyasha Bare, had her stand (No. 4688 DZ Extension Phase 1), allocated to one Needful Mukarati under very unclear circumstances. Bare had applied for and was offered the stand in the early 1990s. When government delayed the project, Mukarati, who was still in primary school then, is said to have proceeded to improve the stand by erecting a dwelling that is currently at the premises.

Confusion

It is unclear how Mukarati got the stand while still a minor but it is suspected that her mother, who had a stand or house elsewhere, had taken the stand on her behalf. Bare’s legal representatives, Matsikidze and Mucheche, said their client was the rightful owner of the stand in a matter that was concluded at High Court (HC 1739/12) in July last year.

“It is clear that Mukarati was issued ownership of the stand with forged papers because the approved plan for the stand and statements for rates and City Council payments are still in Nyasha Bare’s name,” said Bare’s close relative who declined to be named.

Although summons for eviction have been served on Mukarati , Bare says she has been having difficulty in reclaiming her stand and suspects there could be some clandestine dealings between Mukarati and officials at the ministry.

Both Bepete and Bare believe that delays by the ministry in issuing eviction or demolition orders on illegal occupiers had something to do with the officials being bribed. The matter has also been forwarded to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. A public notice issued by government in the Herald of August 5, 2010 lists the two among hundreds of beneficiaries of the DZ Extension scheme.

Although government has gone on a spree to evict illegal occupiers of land in Harare and Chitungwiza recently, allegations now abound that Zanu (PF) “used” people during its election campaign by letting them go on a “free land for all” rampage. These people are now being evicted as “illegal settlers without compensation or alternative accommodation.

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