Homeowners need respite

HARARE - Recent threats by Local Government deputy minister, Joel Biggie Matiza to repossess undeveloped stands on the premise that this denies local authorities revenue essential for enhanced urban development seem misdirected.

If the threat is carried out, it opens opportunities for predator land barons to amass more land at the expense of poor home-seekers.

When we look back at the difficulties encountered in bringing land ownership to finality, a defining feature is how the misconception surrounding the issue has hobbled efforts to genuinely uplift the urban poor.

At the moment, the enduring land wrangle between residents allocated stands under Garikai/ Hlalani Kuhle scheme on Whitecliff Farm cast doubts about government sincerity when it ladles out land, in breach of property rights.

Matiza’s threats fail to address a major component of the cause why some land owners seem reluctant to develop stands where it has taken government decades to process title deeds for that land in order to guarantee the purchaser security of tenure.

Government has been blaming commercial banks for being tight-fisted in doling out loans to prospective home builders who are refusing to be held back by lack of state assistance but battling to put a roof over their families’ heads.

Where land barons hold residential land for speculative purposes, the state is justified in repossessing it. But when individuals are financially constrained from developing residential stands because of the current liquidity crunch, there is no reason whatsoever why they should be penalised.

The hapless stand owner is further impoverished by government action in circumstances where the state fails to provide an alternative source of funding for construction purposes.

Threats of repossession which appear a knee-jerk reaction to obvious government failure on its part of the bargain merely serve to imply that the state seeks to flout laid down laws.

It assigns itself the arbitrary right to bend rules for expediency regarding individual rights to private ownership of property.

In many instances, the prospective homeowner will be paying for the residential stand in installments with no additional disposable income to start putting up a structure.

They cannot default at the risk of accumulating punitive interest on arrears.

While this gives the impression that the land is undeveloped, the reality is that the urban poor are grappling with other financial obligations and demands occasioned by a liquidity crunch.

The ministry of Local Government can do prospective home builders a huge favour by re-visiting its intention to repossess residential stands from poor people and focus more attention of finding ways to whittle down the growing number of predator land barons.

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