Following a wave of massive structures demolition of illegal structures by the Harare City Council which the government claims were doled out by bogus housing co-operatives, the Church in Zimbabwe has urged citizens to follow the legal procedure when getting residential land.
Speaking on the sideline of the Churches Convergence on Conflict & Peace (CCCOP) District Inspection Meeting held at Glad Tidings Church in Hatcliff on Wednesday, fiery cleric Reverend Guthrie Melusi Gwanzura said while they didn’t condone the council-sanctioned destruction of residential structures, the citizens had a role to play.
“Today, we were looking at the problems that are affecting the peri-urban of Hatcliffe and also the sustainable peaceful interventions under the Churches Convergence on Conflict and Peace’s Coordinated Response Platform. The residential land issue is at its all-time peak. Through our engagement with the authorities and citizens, we noted that there is a backlog for residential stands from the land distributors.
What you can observe about Zimbabweans is that they have the means and the capacity to build but most of our buildings are not structured legally. It shows you that there is a desperation for people to settle. Regardless, there has to be a due process, a legal way to acquire stands. As the Church, we do not condone the demolition that is taking place in urban settlement, but we also need to note that ordinary people need to go through the proper procedures of acquiring lands, whether it’s private, state or council land. That involves the land getting cleared, being given title deeds and permits so that they can settle properly.
As a church, we want to avoid cases where structures are demolished because they are not sanctioned by the authorities. To the council and governing authorities, we say that the land that is there should be distributed in a very clear manner and not clandestinely. The person who applied for the land and is on the waiting list should be awarded one following the proper procedure. During our engagement here, we heard of a case of the ZANU PF District Chairperson Clifford Kamozo, who claimed that he has been applying for an industrial land since 1996 and here we are in 2020 and he is yet to have it. So, if it is taking us decades to resolve such trivial issues, we are likely to have more problems in the future than we already have today,”
said Rev Guthrie Melusi.
The issue of land reform is a topic that always stimulates thought-provoking debates. Asked on the moral and political capacity of the church in addressing such, Rev Guthrie, who is among the staunch leaders of the Bishop Ancelimo Magaya-led Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD) – a Christian advocacy organisation that promotes the Church’s visibility and audibility on matters of government – said it was the mandate of the church to right societal wrongs.
Said the cleric:
“It is right within the church moral capacity to bring together stakeholders. Some may say this is outside its jurisdiction but tell you what, the church has the moral obligation to correct vices and reprimand evils. The church ministers to all the people in the society and among them are the citizens and those in places of authority. It is the mandate of the church to speak to all the people and give directions as we are the moral compass of the society. Look at here, we brought all the community stakeholders to dialogue and find lasting solutions. We have representatives from ZANU PF, MDC, the council, social welfare, and other NGOs, and together they interacted,” Rev Melusi said.
Explaining the church-launched Coordinated Response Platform, Rev. Melusi said it was a church initiative that was set up after realising that there were many challenges bedevilling Zimbabwe, from sectors of health, education, the machete-wielding artisanal miners and the general industrial organised labour actions like strikes and demonstrations.
“We are facing various grievances, and it was upon that realisation that the church mooted CRP, a platform that addresses such, a platform coordinated by the church but owned by no one,” he said.
Hatcliffe ward 22 councillor Honorable Elvis Ruzani thanked the church for bringing in a dialogue platform between residents and the council and echoed that the land question has posed a serious challenge in his constituency.
“The meeting we had here today was very relevant because it acted as a platform where people were able to vent out the challenges they are facing in their day to day lives. By the nature of the meeting being apolitical, it created a conducive environment whereby people sincerely spoke about developmental issues without carrying political connotations. At the end of the day, we were able to find each other. That helps to move the community forward.”
That being said, the issue of land has caused quite a big problem. We had quite a number of issues. Firstly, the issue has to be dealt with knowing the background of Hatcliffe. We have the composition of council land, that’s the land that falls under the jurisdiction of the city of Harare. We also have the State land which falls under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture & Rural Resettlement. You will find that to acquire any of that land, they are different procedures involved. Regarding council land, you will find that most of the land has been taken up because most people know how to acquire it. Since it has been taken up, we are therefore left with wetlands and open spaces and that is the land that citizens are grabbing. That is causing up the problem where other citizens are questioning where, why and how some residents getting lands and others are not,” he said.
Also present at the meeting, Director of Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA) Mfundo Mlilo, urged resident to acquire all the necessary documents when getting land. He said while citizens have the right to land, shelter and property, it the acquisition of such have to follow a legal way to avoid problems of demolition, scams and fraud.
Mlilo also urged the council, government and land and housing associations to carry out community outreaches that educate citizens on the proper ways of acquiring stands.
Hatcliffe is made of four sections; Old and New Hatcliffe, Cooperatives area and the Consortium areas. Majority of the houses in the Cooperative area have no sewer and water pipes laid on the ground.
According to state reports, Zimbabwe has over 1,3 million people on the housing list, creating a fertile ground for land barons to exploit the desperation and fleece citizens of their hard-earned money. In Harare, they have invaded Mufakose, Budiriro, Hatcliffe, and Aspindale, among others while in Chitungwiza, power lines, sewer lines, schools, clinics and football fields have been taken over.
The land barons have parcelled out State land, local authorities’ land and even private land across the country.
Churches Convergence on Conflict and Peace (CCCOP) is a consortium of church-related organizations consisting of the ZDD, Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA), the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJP) and Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF).
The initiative, which also works hand-in-glove with National Peace & Reconciliation Commission and Zimrights, engages communities to foster peace at grass-root level.
Hallelujah Magazine is committed to publishing reliable, trusted, quality and independent Christian journalism. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and is not influenced by wealthy people, politicians, clerics or shareholders. We value our readers’ feedback, suggestions and opinions. Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below. Like this story? Share it with a friend!