Double blow for Chitungwiza land owners

HARARE - Hundreds of people who built houses on land illegally acquired in Chitungwiza are set to pay double.

After buying land to build houses from a local housing cooperative, the residents are now being asked to fork out more by Chitungwiza Municipality for the settlement to be regularised.

Chitungwiza has demanded $7 million from the local housing co-operative, United We Stand Housing Co-operative, and its beneficiaries for the “illegal” residential stands to be considered as part of the country’s third largest populated urban area.

This follows a resolution last month by the cash-strapped council that houses which were built illegally should be amalgamated into the town to improve revenue inflow.

In an April 12, 2013 letter to United We Stand Co-operative, Chitungwiza Municipality demands $7 662 640, 00 in application fees, land sales, approval of building plans, building inspection, penalties for unapproved buildings and administrative fees.

Of that amount, beneficiaries of the illegal land are expected to pay $4 245 696 notwithstanding the fact that they bought the residential stands for between $4 500 and $5 000 from the co-operative.

“Following your request to Chitungwiza Municipality to regularise development of residential stands as per attached claims 1 and 2, please be advised that the municipality hereby demands payment of administration, application and regularisation charges as follows:

“Claims 1 and 2 valued at $7 077 890 and $584 750 respectively to comply with the requirements of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act in regularising your residential developments” reads the letter.

Another letter dated April 17 advises the co-operative that beneficiaries would only be issued with lease agreements upon payment of a further $2 000 each.

 “We are expecting that your beneficiaries would have paid $584 per stand by April 30, 2013.

“Lease agreements would only be issued to beneficiaries after paying a further $8 per square metre which translates to $1 600 per 200 square metre-stand by May 31, 2013,” the letter reads.

Co-operative chairperson Fraderick Mabamba dismissed council figures, which he said were arrived at without taking stock of the reality on the ground.

“As a co-operative we are aware that our properties need regularisation but there are several flaws in the way council came up with the figures.

“We do not agree with the number of (residential) stands attributed to us because what we have in reality is far less than that.

“Moreover, the figure assumes that all stands were developed yet some of our members have not started developing their properties.

“We call upon council to get to the ground to verify their claims so that we arrive at the appropriate amount we owe council,” said Mabamba.

But the Chitungwiza finance director, who chose to be identified only as E Machona,said the figures are justified.

“Council is regularising all illegal settlements so beneficiaries have a part to play while the bulk of the money will be paid by their co-operative.

“We arrived at the figure after careful consideration and nobody should cry foul,” said Machona.

Rapid urbanisation has forced the sprawling town of Chitungwiza to tuck in communal lands — in order to address the ever rising demand for houses. - Mugove Tafirenyika

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