Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Land grabs move to Harare

Land grabs move to Harare

JASON MOYO  HARARE, ZIMBABWE – Jan 27 2012 09:48

Just past one of Harare’s wealthiest northern suburbs, the road empties 
quickly into the squalor. On one side of the road in the Hatcliff area a 
Zanu-PF flag flies over a makeshift home, one of hundreds being illegally 
built by the party’s supporters on land that had been set aside for a new 

There are shades of the farm invasions that started in 2000 — when landless 
villagers invaded thousands of farms across the country — but this time the 
white farmer has been replaced by land developers and the landless villagers 
by housing cooperatives backed by Zanu-PF.

Amid rising controversy over the urban land invasions, the government 
announced this week that it was drafting the military into a new committee 
that would investigate the illegal allocation of housing stands in Harare 
“in a bid to curb corruption and ensure that the land is developed”.

The role of the military in the housing controversy will unsettle Prime 
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, which holds the 
urban constituencies that Zanu-PF is now taking over using its land barons 
and thousands of desperate homeseekers.

A Zanu-PF membership card makes you part of one of numerous “housing 
co-operatives”, which are run by the party’s kingpins looking to gain 
political clout and make a profit. In Hatcliff hundreds of homeseekers have 
paid subscriptions to the Harare North Housing Union, run by Justin 
Zvandasara, who is campaigning to be the Zanu-PF MP for the area.

Zanu-PF has little support in urban areas, but it has been using the hunger 
for urban land to parcel out pieces of land on the outskirts of Harare and 
other cities as a way to claw its way into the urban areas.

It is a strategy that has worked before. In a previous election the 
government shifted constituency boundaries in an area on the southern verges 
of Harare to include new settlements controlled by Zanu-PF. Scared of being 
driven off the land, voters in those settlements voted Zanu-PF, giving 
President Robert Mugabe his only constituency in Harare. Now Zanu-PF looks 
to be expanding that strategy, allowing what it calls “co-operatives” to 
occupy land set aside for new property developments.

More than 1 000 settlers have occupied plots of land here, each paying up to 
$1 000 to the co-operative. The co-operative has parcelled out stands of 
about 300m2 each and settlers pay $55 a month to stay. The money they pay, 
they have been told, is to “service the stands”.

Council laws state houses should be built only after the water supply and 
sewerage systems are in place. In addition, the city planner must approve 
plans and authorise construction of any housing.

But hundreds of makeshift homes are going up. There are no roads and 
residents have dug shallow wells for water right next to pit latrines.

Portia Manangazira, disease control officer in the ministry of health, said 
such settlements were contributing to outbreaks of typhoid in parts of 
Harare. “According to the Public Health Act, tap water is the only 
acceptable source of drinking water in urban areas,” she said.

But, just as was the case on the farms, Zanu-PF said the squatters are not 
going anywhere.

The invaded Hatcliff property belongs to Nyasha Chikwinya, a Zanu-PF 
official herself. She wants the invaders out but she has had to tread 

“As a mother and grandmother, I have a heart. Some have begged me to spare 
them from evictions,” Chikwinya said. She explained that she would negotiate 
with leaders of the co-operative.

The high court has ordered the settlers off the property. Dismissing pleas 
to spare residents who have already built homes on the land, the court ruled 
that the “mere fact that the respondents have since unlawfully erected 
structures on someone’s land without her consent cannot sanitise or legalise 
their unlawful authority”.


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