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Zanu PF faces litmus test over land barons promise

Several political analysts have argued that Zanu PF had no capacity to tackle land barons.

THE government has failed to stamp out the illegal parcelling out of land in peri-urban areas by land barons, five years after President Emmerson Mnangagwa campaigned on a promise to address the problem, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.

With Mnangagwa’s term coming to an end after next week’s elections, the promise remains a pie in the sky, according to an investigation by this newspaper.

Several political analysts have argued that Zanu PF had no capacity to tackle land barons.

They said this was because land barons were often used to promise land to the electorate during campaigns.

The Independent’s investigation showed village heads were still advertising state land for sale on various social media platforms.

The stands range from 300 square metres to three hectares, with prices starting from US$1 500 to US$5 000 depending on size.

Village heads have taken advantage of legislative loopholes to parcel out and sell land, which must be given to citizens for free.

Villagers  in  Gimboki  and  Dora  under chief  Zimunya in Manicaland  province were  said  to  be  selling  their  land  after realising  village heads were parcelling it out and selling it, as demand rises.

A village head in Goromonzi, who requested anonymity, said the sudden rise in demand for rural stands has been driven by cheaper prices in peri-urban areas around Harare. Harare has some of the biggest markets for farm produce.

“As you are aware, there are rising issues of illegal stands in Harare and they are generally expensive,” the village head said.

“People have opted for peri-urban stands, which are cheap and closer to Harare. Therefore, village heads have been selling land for their benefit,” the village head said.

However, state land sales are likely to trigger a wave of demolitions.

“Two years ago, I bought a two-hectare piece of land for US$3 700 here in Marimo, Goromonzi, through the village head and I am doing various projects where I am selling vegetables, road runners, broilers, rabbits and goats locally and in Harare.

“In total, I used up to US$6 000 to get this land. There was competition from other Harare buyers who wanted the same land. So I had to buy goodies for the village head and rural district council officials,” Simbarashe Mapuranga, a villager in Goromonzi said.

According to an evaluation made by Goromonzi Rural District Council, it is estimated that desperate land seekers have been duped of over US$25 million yearly by village heads and rural district council officials.

Some village heads are now selling grazing land and wetlands.

In an interview, National Housing and Social Amenities minister Daniel Garwe said the government drafted a policy of regularisation and sanitation of illegal settlements.

He said people must desist from non-systematic ways of building houses and dysfunctional urban settlements. 

“The government had to provide sanity and regularisation to ensure that all the services are provided.  Offsite, and onsite infrastructure is provided,” Garwe said.

“The programme has already started in earnest. The issuing of title deeds was announced by His Excellence (Mnangagwa) and he is augmenting the regularisation process to protect citizens from land barons and from councils that continue taking rentals from people who have been living in the houses for more than 50 years.

“People from Highfield and Mbare have been there for 50 years, paying rent, and essentially, they have now bought those houses. The Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities is also issuing title deeds to those living in informal settlements,” he added.

Garwe further noted that land barons were being arrested daily.

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