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133 Percent Surge In Mutare Housing Demand In Three Years

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By Kenneth Matimaire

Mutare, July 13, 2017 - RESIDENTS in the eastern border city are faced with a serious housing crisis as the local authority is currently land-chocked against a rising demand of residential land, RadioVOP can report.

The situation has spiralled out of control as residents are becoming impatient and in turn resorting to unorthodox means to get housing stands.

This has led to an influx of cases of illegal land occupation by rowdy groups and double allocation of stands by corrupt council officials – further worsening the housing crisis.

Records obtained from the Civic Centre – where the local authority is housed – indicated that its housing waiting list has shot up by 133 percent to 70,000 home seekers to date from 30,000 in 2014.

The rise in housing demand comes at a time the local authority declared to have run out of land in 2014.

Mutare has a population of 262,124 dwellers, according to the 2012 census. The figure is believed to have risen to over 300,000 by now.

In a bid to address the housing crisis, the city fathers have been making frantic efforts to negotiate for a land swap deal with government.

The deal would see the local authority cede Meikles Park in exchange of unprocessed State land measuring 188,000 hectares from government, stretching from Dangamvura Link Road to Fern Valley turn along Chimanimani Road.

However, the deal has been stalled by endless court battles as three entities are contesting ownership of Meikles Park.

This has seen the city fathers making alternative engagements with government to cede State land to the land-chocked local authority under its urban expansion plans.

“Our housing waiting list has been increasing by the day. There are over 70,000 people on the list at the moment,” Mutare mayor Tatenda Nhamarare said.

“Council had initially agreed to have a land swap deal with government where we were to cede Meikles Park and receive State land between Link Road and Fern Valley turn. The deal is as good as dead because there are too many interested parties there. Several companies are claiming ownership of Meikles Park. The case is still before the courts.

“We have devised to pursue our urban expansion drive, towards the western side of the city. The expansion plan stretches all the way up to Odzi,” said Nhamarare.

Nhamarare said they are currently making use of in-fills and small portions of open space to allocate stands to residents.

Radio VOP could not obtain latest statistics of allocated stands.

However, 2014 records released by the city senior planner Richard Simbi, indicates that the municipality has allocated over 3,000 stands in Raheem and Dreamhouse high density suburbs.

166 stands have also been allocated in Chikanga Extension, 283 stands in Datvest, 509 stands in Mountain Rise of Devonshire, 1,500 stands in Gimboki South of the 5,500 stands available there.

At least 222 stands have also been allocated in Greenside, 311 in Beira Corridor and 54 Florida in-fills including over 300 in-fills in various suburbs, the records stated.

This has, however, failed to satisfy the growing demand of home seekers with other residents resorting to illegal land occupation in a desperate bid to access stands.

Zanu PF provincial youth chairperson Mubuso Chinguno, threatened to illegally grab residential stands as the local authority is reluctant to allocate the 150 stands they claimed to have been offered by the Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere.

Chinguno indicated that they identified land in Chikanga and Dangamvura high density suburb.

However, Nhamarare argued that the Local Government Ministry merely requested the city to allocate the stands to a housing consortium owned by Chinguno – a request rejected by councillors in respect of a government directive not to allocate land to any private consortiums.

The MDC-T mayor added that council will take legal action against the Zanu PF youths if they move in with their threat to illegally grab land in the city.

“The Minister (Saviour Kasukuwere) never allocated any land to Zanu PF youths. What happened is that his assistant wrote a letter last year requesting and not demanding council to cede 150 stands to a consortium owned by one Mubuso Chinguno. Councillors met and voted against the request. They felt that the youths should follow the city’s regulations and join the housing waiting list like what other city dwellers are doing.

“If they try to illegally occupy the land as they are threating to do so, council will take legal action against them. We can’t afford to have people who illegal occupy unprocessed land whenever they see fit. As council we are currently battling against other cases of this nature and we can’t allow it,” said Nhamarare.

Mutare has lost several pieces of land in similar fashion where rowdy residents violently take over stands without the approval of the authority, which has been unable to stop such invasions.

In 2010, a group of soldiers, war veterans among other civil servants illegally occupied non-serviced stands in Dangamvura’s Homeless People Federation Project Phase 2 and 3. The stands legally belonged to other residents.

Though the city obtained a court order to evict the illegal occupants in 2012, the authority failed to do so as they violently retaliated.

This saw the legitimate Dangamvura homeless federation owners to then illegally occupy Devonshire Extension early last year. The city has once again been unable to evict them.

It later emerged that the land was illegally occupied after rogue council officials made double allocations of stands in the respective areas.

Meanwhile, town clerk, Joshua Maligwa said they will engage the parent ministry if they fail to resolve the housing crisis.

"I have heard of the allegations of corruption against the city housing department. It was the talk of the entire province. l will get to the bottom of it and make sure that perpetrators are brought to book.

"As for the issue on Federation and Devonshire extension, l don't think it's something that we cannot resolve. In the event that we failed, we will engage our parent Ministry," he said.

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