Masvingo City Council distances itself from Victoria Ranch

By Clayton Shereni

Some people have for long blamed Masvingo City Council for failing to bring municipal services to the sprawling high density suburb of Victoria Ranch but the local authority has now said it currently bore no administrative responsibility in the area.

Victoria Ranch was built by land barons on Masvingo Rural District Council (RDC) land but with proper procedures not being followed.

Masvingo RDC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Martin Mubviro was recently quoted in a radio programme saying the local authority did not have an obligation to service the area as it was built by private individuals without council’s involvement.

This, therefore, means the suburb is like an orphan with not parental care from any local authority.

Due to its urban nature and closeness to Masvingo urban, residents tend to blame the city for erratic piped water supplies, lack of refuse collection, lack of sewer infrastructure and a barely maintained dusty road network.

The city has always maintained that the land barons, most of whom have very close connections to the ruling Zanu PF party, who grabbed huge chunks of land on the peripheries of the city and sold residential stands should be held accountable and made to provide optimum services.

The area has about 16 land baron companies that refer to themselves as ‘land developers’ but that have barely developed the area besides allowing people to build their houses even directly below high voltage power lines and very close to a garbage dumping ground.

Some of the land barons were last year subjected to serious questioning during the Justice Tendai Uchena-led Commission of Inquiry into the Sale of Land in and Around Urban Areas since 2005.

Before the government appointed inquiry, the national government was conspicuous by its deliberate failure to take action.

The land barons have made millions of dollars dividing the State-owned land into residential stands which are still being sold to desperate home-seekers to this very day.

Since 2005, the land barons allowed the home-seekers to build their houses without first servicing the land as is standard procedure in urban development processes.

Speaking during the first mid-year 2020 budget review held at the Civic Centre on September 07, City of Masvingo Acting Town Clerk Engineer Edward Mukaratirwa said the city did not have administrative responsibilities in the area although the matter was of great bother to everybody.

“Victoria Ranch is still under the jurisdiction of Masvingo RDC (technically) although government gave out land to different developers who then sold pieces of land to individuals. We are having meetings where we discuss the interests of the city in the area. Last Friday (September 04), we held a meeting in which we discussed that issue,” said Mukaratirwa.

He expressed optimism that the area will be incorporated into the city but only when a consensus is reached with the ‘land developers’.

“We constantly monitor progress in the area and also play an advisory role. That area will be incorporated into the boundaries of the city and at one point, all infrastructure will be handed over to council. It’s not like we are turning a deaf ear because from time to time, we engage the developers,” said Mukaratirwa.

However, impeccable sources claim that land barons have on many occasions rejected City of Masvingo’s generous terms to be included into the municipality’s commonage.

“They want to be incorporated into the municipal commonage free of charge even though they made millions of dollars selling State land. That’s impunity. The municipality cannot afford to do that because it is failing to provide standard services in its current commonage,” said a source.

The city has reportedly demanded that the land barons who made enormous profits selling state-owned land to private individuals pay a specified amount of money so that water and sewer reticulation can be expanded into Victoria Ranch.