By Jeffrey Moyo
CHITUNGWIZA, December 13, 2015-Now widely regarded Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Chitungwiza has become heavily laden with emerging residential areas as land barons parcel out housing stands to desperate home-seekers including land meant for public schools and clinics.
A consulting architect at Chitungwiza council, Albert Nyambizi told this reporter that an estimated 11 000 houses were built on land earmarked for schools, clinics or roads.
“In our architectural findings, we have since established that at least 11 000 houses were built on grounds meant for schools, clinics and even roads, and council may be forced to regularise the houses. But where will the residents go for treatment? Where will their children find an education?” asked Nyambizi.
An urgent council meeting conducted behind closed doors at the local authority’s head office on the 16th of October 2014 shows how local authorities have long been aware of the ‘missing’ schools and clinics here.
“There are houses on stands being sold out to home seekers by land dealers, but no clinics and schools are being built in the new residential areas although town planners long marked some of the land spaces for developing public schools and council clinics,” read the leaked minutes from the meeting.
More documents in the possession of this reporter obtained from the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture’s land audit report conducted early last year show that through illegal urban residential land expansion, Chitungwiza encroached into over 600 hectares of State land around Seke rural communal lands.
The same audit also revealed that over 14 000 residential stands allocated to home-seekers in Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural District Council two years ago were illegal, subsequently resulting in the Lands Ministry recommending the destruction of the structures already built on the controversial land pieces.
Based on the government’s audit report some of the homes here were built on spaces reserved for clinics, churches, schools, cemeteries, and roads, while others lay on top of very dangerous electricity pylons.
Despite the audit findings, nothing has been done in response, save for the expulsion of only one Chitungwiza councillor, Frederick Mabamba who was accused of being the chief orchestrator of land allocation scams in the dormitory town.
Anti-corruption officials here say fear has proved to be the chief obstacle for them to combat land scams.
“Some of those land concerns taking place particularly in Chitungwiza are dangerous matters to involve anti-corruption officials because very powerful politicians are involved in such land deals, depriving the poor of the most basic land spaces, even meant for their education facilities and health care centers,” an official from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission who requested to remain anonymous, told Radio VOP.
However, government here has vowed to end the rot.
“No one will be spared in our investigations to arrest land thieves, particularly in Chitungwiza,” Saviour Kasukuwere, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Local Government, said.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) in 2013, Chitungwiza has a population of 1, 4 million people.
Thanks to Chitungwiza’s raging land scams, these millions of people face uncertainty amidst growing urbanisation with little or no land being reserved for building public schools and healthcare facilities.
“With houses being built all over Chitungwiza without schools or clinics, we are creating a generation of academically backward people exposed to diseases,” Nelson Chikova, a Chitungwiza resident, told Radio VOP.
True to Chikova’s remarks, the crisis has already started to mount on children in this town.
Information unearthed by Radio VOP from top educational assessors at the head office of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education here show that Chitungwiza has approximately 700 school drop-outs dotted across new residential areas that have no public schooling facilities, a situation that has drawn the ire of human rights groups.
“Thousands of children of school-going age here in Chitungwiza are not in school because most of them reside in new residential areas that have no schools. The worst part of it is that there are also no public clinics in these emerging residential areas, a situation that has triggered a serious health crisis that has seen even expecting mothers coming face to face with death in the privacy of their poor homes yet this is an urban setup,” Catherine Mukwapati, director of the Youth Dialogue Action Network, a human rights lobby group here, told Radio VOP.
But seeing business opportunities in the crisis gripping the dormitory town, entrepreneurs have built private schools and healthcare centers here whose services many poor residents unfortunately say they can hardly afford, further deepening their humanitarian woes.
Based on the town’s records of schools sourced from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Chitungwiza has 36 schools, 20 of which are primary schools.
However, a master plan of the town obtained in confidence from a top civil engineer in the town’s council showed that the town was supposed to have a total of 97 schools.
The town’s master plan also shows points where there were supposed to be 14 stands for cemeteries, with 42 pieces of land measuring 800 square meters each meant for churches, which local authorities say have not served intended purposes.
“Chitungwiza council apparently has lost control over the allocation of housing stands as Zanu-PF-led housing cooperatives have taken over and since the 2013 controversial polls here, the ruling party has made sure it keeps appeasing its voters here by giving them housing stands, overpowering our local authority in the process,” Philip Mutoti, the mayor of the town, who belongs to the opposition MDC-T, told Radio VOP.
There are 16 high density suburbs in Chitungwiza, a town with 12 clinics while 34 other pieces of land designated for more clinics depicted on the town plan were converted into residential areas.
The oldest of the suburbs is St Mary’s which is divided into two sections, which are Manyame Park (New St Mary’s) and Old St Mary’s of which St Mary’s is popularly known for being the oldest suburb here.
Following St Mary’s there is also Zengeza, divided into five sections which are Zengeza one to five, with Seke following, which is another suburb located in Chitungwiza and is also divided into many sections which include Unit A to P.