Harare Land Row Sparks Violence

Violence has once again erupted between rival members of Ushewokunze Housing Co-operative over allegations of corruption and land grabbing by Zanu PF supporters reportedly linked to Harare South legislator Shadreck Mashayamombe.

A faction led by former co-operative chairman, Ezekiel Karimanzira is accused of fraudulently seizing huge tracts of land from the housing co-operative.

The cooperative’s chairperson, Fungai Nyarota, and his executive, were this week allegedly attacked with stones and machetes by a group linked to former chairperson Ezekiel Karimanzira which claims it is being backed by President Robert Mugabe.

According to eyewitnesses, Karimanzira’s security guards allegedly handcuffed four members during an emergency meeting that had been called to diffuse simmering tension at the volatile cooperative. “A meeting was called this week to try and solve several problems to do with land allocation at the cooperative amid claims of corruption and nepotism. During the meeting, Karimanzira’s supporters became violent and ejected Nyarota’s bodyguards Munyaradzi Unganai, Courage Shupure, Tinashe Chitobo and Simba Chiwi who were then handcuffed and whisked away in a pick-up truck for allegedly trespassing.

“The problem with Karimanzira and his people is that they have been using President Mugabe’s name to abuse genuine cooperative members. They have been taking land for themselves under a dubious and non-existent company called Commercial Farmers’ Industries (CFI). These guys are land barons, they use borrowed political powers to steal money from the poor and as genuine members of the cooperative, we are not going to just fold our hands but will soon confront them so they stop their illegal activities,” Nyarota charged.

When contacted for comment, Karimanzira was unapologetic and claimed the land belonged to CFI and threatened to fight anyone who attempted to grab the land from him.

A stand allocation list availed to Talking Harare and signed by Karimanzira, Mutambiramwa Gwara and Leornad Tarwirei shows that Mashayamombe was allocated four stands — 5231 to 5234 and Karimanzira had four stands allocated to him.

Mashayamombe distanced himself from the fights, saying they were being fanned by people who continued running co-operatives and stealing money from people.“These people are lying. I have nothing to do with that land row. They want to continue running co-operatives and stealing money from people, that’s the problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Zanu PF youths last week invaded an open space in Hatcliffe suburb earmarked for expansion of a Harare City Council sewer treatment plant, as the ruling party seeks to strengthen its power base ahead of the 2018 elections.

The youths have since erected makeshift structures out of plastic and thatch, as well as an office, where those interested in residential stands were being vetted and paying registration fees.

 

“If you want a stand, you have to follow procedure and join the party. You come with a letter of recommendation because we cannot accommodate everyone. We are on the ground and no one will remove us here. This is our land. Our President said every youth should own a residential stand,” one of the youth leaders said after enquiries about how they obtained the land.

 Some people in Hatcliffe extension also expressed concern over the sprouting settlement.Others said they feared the youths would end up encroaching into their serviced land or cause social and political troubles.

Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme promised to establish whose land it was and how the youths came to erect their makeshift structures there.

However, some Zanu PF leaders disowned the youths, while urging police to take action before the situation gets out of hand.

“We don’t condone any invasion. We have our land, which is enough for all the youths to get residential stands. As leaders, we don’t encourage what they did and if it is true that they are erecting structures, then let me alert the local leadership and the police to remove them,” Zanu PF Harare provincial youth chairperson, Edson Takataka said.

Harare North MP, Tongesayi Mudambo (Zanu PF) also distanced himself from the squatters.

“I am not part of that arrangement. They are saying they have papers from the Local Government ministry, but I have never seen the papers so I cannot say if they are illegal or legal occupants. I am not involved,” he said.

Land barons and other named Zanu PF members have caused trouble in urban areas by illegally parcelling out land, a practice that often resulted in demolitions.

(CORAH, additional reporting by Newsday)