Land barons are reported by Domboshawa residents to have emerged in their area and are allegedly intimidating villagers to give up their communal land holdings and then subdivide these and parcel out stands for money, with the whole process illegal and not following any of the rules of converting rural land to urban land.
Domboshawa is close to Harare, with frequent relatively inexpensive bus services, The barons are said to have mastered the art of name dropping to intimidate villagers into giving up their land.
Residents near Mverechena business centre this week said they were fighting daily with land barons who are conniving with greedy local residents to illegally parcel out stands.
Despite knowing that communal land is allocated to individuals who qualify by being members of the community for free after consultation with traditional leaders, the land barons, some of whom inherited landholdings from their parents, have chosen to ignore the law for profit.
The Herald saw a lot housing development on wetlands and pastures which are now virtually non-existent as a new unapproved settlement takes shape.
Chief Chinamhora, under whose realm the contested land falls, said desperate home seekers from Harare are falling prey to land barons.
“Land barons who are coming from Harare are giving us hard times. They are conniving with some of our residents to illegally sell State land. This has become a worrisome trend as unplanned settlements have resulted in some people settling dangerously on foots of mountains risking their lives as they are now prone to land slides and rock falls,” he said.
The chief also appealed to the Government to take quick measures as some land barons were dropping names of important people to scare off traditional leaders.
“As chiefs, we are worried that some land barons are tarnishing the image of our top leadership. We already have names of people who are intimidating village heads.”
It is alleged that a 600m² stand is going for US$1 000 and the cost gets higher in areas close to the main road.
Some of the village heads are allegedly manipulating a constitutional provision which makes them custodians of communal lands.
According to Section 282 of the Constitution, traditional authorities are tasked with overseeing communal lands and preserving the environment.
Communal land belongs to the State and is held in trust for the communities using that land. The President can allow it to be occupied and used in conformity with this the Communal Lands Act.
The land barons were also said to have taken advantage of the boundary disputes between Zimbiru and Mungate villagers to parcel out stands on the disputed land. A portion of the disputed land has already been fenced off by alleged stand grabbers from Hatcliffe.
The disputed land has been reportedly taken over by Mr Sheaman Mukwesha, an ex-police officer who is accusing the chief for being biased.
Mr Mukwesha, one of the alleged land barons who is claiming to be a village head, denied the allegations saying the whole community had turned against him.
“I am currently residing in Chegutu at my farm. I came back here to bring sanity because the whole community has turned against me. Even my family has taken the side of the chief.
“I cannot be told what to do and as the village head, I am only giving stands to deserving residents. Our neighbours are using their financial muscle to influence the chief to tarnish my image,” he said.
Another concerned resident, Mr Bonface Zimbiru said they had already initiated a legal process to weed out people who had been settled illegally.
Zanu PF Goromonzi district coordinating committee secretary for information Mr Fungai Chimugoti said they were working with the police to apprehend land barons.
“We are aware that some members of public are abusing our party regalia and we are going to name and shame them. We are urging our members to respect our local leaders. We are now facing the risk of outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and cholera because of these cramped settlements,” he said.
This land grabbing and illegal conversion of communal land to urban land is not unique to Domboshawa and Goromonzi alone, but in almost every area which lies on the outskirts of Harare.
Communal land can be converted to urban settlement, and in fact Chitungwiza is a prime example of land being excised legally from the Seke Communal Lands, then being properly serviced and subdivided. But the process involves both the local leadership and the central Government, with provision for compensation, and is not something that anyone who claims they hold or can allocate farming land is allowed to do.
Meanwhile, land barons who were masquerading as Zanu PF members were arrested after invading peri-urban land that was given to a private contractor, Homelux Property Development, along Masvingo Road.
This was revealed yesterday by the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities Daniel Garwe during a tour of the private property.
“People across Manyame River are coming here. These are basically criminals masquerading as Zanu PF members which we have investigated and realised that they were criminals. They have disrupted the smooth flow of the development by chasing way the developer and building shacks. We have informed the police and they came here and kicked them out,” he said. – Herald