MUTARE – Government inaction on an unapproved co-operative land has given birth to two slum settlements in Dangamvura and Chikanga – both named Mahalape.
The Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation (ZHPF) – which now has two settlements with a combined population of over 1 000 impoverished families – is now unable to find a solution in nearly a decade of zero-sum wrangling for the 15 hectares of jointly bought urban land.
With the land having been fully paid for to council but being developed in phases, a Zanu PF aligned faction of the grouping plunged the scheme into chaos.
The group had only fully serviced 360 of the 1 200 stands in Dangamvura back in 2011.
Two hundred of the stands had been taken up by their members and the other 160 were sold to non-members to raise money in order to complete the development of the remaining stands.
Disgruntled members who did not move in to occupy their stands – hoping for a quick solution to the impasse – then established their own slum in Chikanga five years ago in protest over the local authority’s tolerance of their rivals’ self-made settlement.
“We had hoped that the enforcement of by-laws would have protected our property rights and brought sanity, but somehow the system let us down,” Luke Mukungatu, who leads the informal settlement, said.
High Court orders sought by both the local authority and organisation in 2012 have either been resisted or ignored.
Council has violently resisted the move to illegally occupy the land, while the federation’s order was supposed to have been enforced by Dangamvura police who, however, never raised a finger, triggering suspicion of a political hand behind the disturbances.
Zanu PF Manicaland provincial administrator Kenneth Saruchera denied that the seizure of the land had been sanctioned by his party and put it down to the abuse of Zanu PF’s name, urging the local authority to act on the issue.
“This is urban land, and it is up to the council and Local government ministry to address the issue,” Saruchera said.
ZHPF is a network of community saving schemes made up of households living in poor urban communities across the country.
It was formed in 1998 and has a membership of over 46 900.
Frustrated by politics for four years, the group that is settled at Mahalape formally notified council of their intention by giving it a two-weeks notice to act before bowing to move in, in the process creating a sprawling shanty suburb.
ZHPF Mutare chapter vice chairperson Memory Mutasa said they now hoped government would regularise their settlements and allow them to begin servicing the land they currently occupy so that it meets council by-laws.
“We paid for our 15-hectares of land in full and were in the process of developing it when some lawless elements took advantage of their proximity to power to settle themselves without council clearance, and government should also take responsibility for the current mess,” Mutasa said.