STATISTICS show that nearly 30 hectares in Ward 16 is under threat from land barons with at least 11 hectares under threat while 17 hectares is also being targeted for developments.
Ward 16 has been cited as among the worst affected wards when it comes to illegal developments and invasion of wetlands.
A recent meeting called to discuss the problems heard that there were about five sites in the ward where developers were proposing to build houses or sell stands to home seekers.
According to submissions at the meeting, at least five sites around Ellis Robins High School, Sherwood Golf Course, the Monavale Vlei, around Eddison Zvobgo Road (formerly Quendon Road) and Westminster Avenue.
A resident coordinating communities in these areas to oppose the developments Mr Briggs Bomba said there was collusion between council officials and the land barons.
“So we have a problem all over where we have clear collusion between officials with the City of Harare and land barons and other actors to completely grab available pieces of land within our communities,” he said. Mr Bomba said at Sherwood Golf Course he has stopped people claiming to own the land from pegging stands.
“And in that process, we demanded that they submit the paperwork that authorises them to come and do surveys and peg let alone do developments,” he said.
But the developers were not keen to submit their paperwork.
“And when we pressed them to produce paperwork, they only came with papers that they flashed at us at a distance which shows that this is not paperwork that they had prepared to have scrutinised.
“So we have said that until we can scrutinise and verify this paperwork, we will not allow them to proceed and even in the course of that conversation, we realised that they were exaggerating in terms of land that they have title deeds and all the paperwork has gone through,” he said.
Mr Bomba said statistics from the Harare Wetlands Trust showed that land barons have title deeds for land that amounts to 11 hectares in the area excluding Sherwood Golf Course.
“Then the other over 17 hectares they are targeting, the papers are still moving. But what we can see is the steps and processes are underway to the extent that you will not be surprised if after six months, they have all this paperwork,” he said.
Mr Bomba said they would have to use legal channels to demand the production of the developers’ paperwork.
“So we are left with no option than to demand their paperwork through legal means.
“We want them to be compelled to present their paperwork to us so that we can all scrutinise it and audit the procedure in which they acquired that paperwork so that everything can be put to test to see if there is any violation.”
He said this was necessary because there was connivance between the developers and council officials.
“We have now realised there is a great deal of violation within the City of Harare where people are paid to put signatures. They won’t even put their names on this paperwork. It’s just a signature and it’s typed acting director, say, of evaluations.
“So you can see that these are people who clearly are doing something illegal and are not prepared to show their faces,” said Mr Bomba.
However, he said once papers are signed they are legally binding.
“And the problem is once they sign these papers and paperwork is processed, even if that person is no longer there, the papers are legally binding unless they are challenged thoroughly.
“So we have seen that that’s a strategy being used to say you just acquire signatures from the council offices and the you just lie low. You keep your papers behind the scenes and then five, 10 years later, you show up with papers that show that they were already signed at City of Harare.”
Residents had to organise themselves and challenge this chicanery.
“So we are challenging that corruption and we want to make sure that everything is transparent from the beginning up to the end and everyone putting their signatures must show their faces.
“And we have seen that some of the reasons that we are coming under attack as Sherwood Golf Club from some sections of City of Harare is precisely the fact that we are opposing this illegality.
“We are opposing these schemes to grab land from the community and recreational land from our community.
“You start to see some maneuvers pretty much undermine anyone in the community who is opposing these shenanigans,” he said.
Mr Bomba urged residents to be united in the fight against land barons.
“All of these shenanigans, all of this thievery, land grabbing, corruption is only happening because our communities are not organised and not acting together as they should.
“So we are making a call to the whole community to be organised and to watch what’s happening around, call out any suspicious issues and to fight against this for the sake of future generations.
“For the sake of communities today, it is important the communities become organised and resist this,” he said.
A follow-up service delivery meeting heard that Ward 16 will look into ways in which the City of Harare can help protect recreational areas.