Urban home seekers flocking to nearby communal lands

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Seke (New Ziana) -With residential stands in urban areas now beyond the reach of the majority, many home seekers are now flocking to nearby communal areas where villagers are sub-dividing their plots and selling small pieces at cheaper prices with Seke, just outside Chitungwiza, being among the most sought after.
So rampant is the practice that several Harare, Chitungwiza and Marondera residents are conniving with traditional leaders and other villagers in the area to acquire land meant for grazing and farming with wards One, Two, Three, Four and Eight being the worst affected.
A New Ziana crew conducted research in the area and established that some headmen were manipulating a Constitutional provision which makes them custodians of land.
Under section 282 of the Constitution traditional leaders are given the function of administering Communal Land “in accordance with an Act of Parliament”.
According to section 4 of the Communal Land Act, communal land is vested in the President “who shall permit it to be occupied and used in accordance with this Act”.
Despite knowing that rural land should not be sold, traditional leaders, particularly in Seke, have chosen to ignore the law for the love of money.
Posing as a prospective buyer, the writer approached three different headmen in Seke who all referred him to some villagers with “extra land”.
It also emerged during the investigations that land the size of a football pitch (approximately one hectrare) is going for US$3 000 whilst that which is slightly bigger is going for US$6 000, which is much cheaper compared to urban land which is going for US$6 500 for 350 square metres.
To get land, one pretends to be related to the person who is selling it to make it appear as though they have been given it for free since the actors are aware of the consequences of selling state land.
“I hope you are aware that we are not supposed to be selling this land since it is illegal to do so. Whoever asks you how you acquired the land, you simply say that we are related and I gave it to you for free,” said one villager from Murisa village near Ziko who declined to be identified.
The villager revealed that after receiving money from selling his land, he gives a certain amount to the village head for him to register the new comer in the village records.
However, although the village syndicates are smiling all the way to the bank through illegal land deals, Seke Rural District (RDC) is the biggest loser.
Chief executive officer Felistas Guta said the practice was so widespread that it had gone out of control.
Guta said the legal processes involved in trying to stop the scourge were lengthy and expensive.
“As I am talking to you right now, we have 250 litigations before the courts which have been dragging for years. When a verdict is passed the people appeal the judgments,” she said.
She added that the matter started in 1990s with headmen and chiefs in the Mayambara area near Makoni in Chitungwiza, before escalating after the government instituted “Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order” in 1997 when illegal shacks in urban centers were demolished and many of the occupants relocated to the rural areas.
Many of the displaced people from Chitungwiza flocked to nearby Seke communal area where they bought land from chiefs and headmen at give-away prices.
“When fellow villagers discovered that the traditional leaders were making a killing from selling state land, they jumped into the fray to also make quick money,” said Guta.
Contacted for comment, Chief Seke whose area of jurisdiction has been decimated over the years, denied any involvement in the illegal, land deals taking place in his area.
He said he was equally disturbed by what is happening, saying he did not have control over it as the government had since taken away all their powers over land.
“Gone are the days when we used to try anyone who sells land, but the Constitution now forbids us from trying these people as it is now the prerogative of conventional courts to do so,” he said.
New Ziana

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