The lead story in the January 2017 issue of Harare News revealed a high likelihood of Harare, and other urban areas, falling victim to land grabs by the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of the 2018 elections.
Detailed in the piece was the long history of land theft in the capital for purposes of self enrichment and political gain. Following up on the article, a Harare News special correspondent last week asked the Minister of Local Goverment Saviour Kasukuwere question about his ministry’s alleged role in parceling out land to barons, interference in the affairs of the MDC-T dominated municipality and what the ministry is doing to bring order to the capital in the wake of the outbreak of the typhoid epidemic, among others.
HN: When is the local government legislation going to be aligned to the Constitution, timeframe?
SK: The legislation of local government bill has been worked on. In fact my predecessor Doctor Ignatius Chombo had worked on that but you are aware that in 2015 there was a separation of ministries meaning that u now have rural affairs and my ministry local urban development meaning it had been prepared as one composite piece of legislation and what we have done is that we now are going through the motions again of course will have to be guided in terms of do we approach it as one bill or it has to be separated.
HN: So really you don’t have a timeline?
SK: I can’t be certain and say on such and such a day. It’s work under progress.
HN: How have the land barons been able to scam so many people and get away with it?
SK: The question of land barons has been a very disturbing phenomenon that emerged out of government desire to ensure people have land. The government was keen to promote the cooperatives as an alternative in terms of delivery of houses to our local authorities and so forth, people would sit together and do some self-help but we have observed with a lot of sadness that it then became a culture that was allowed to develop and a lot of impunity people would just take land and set up whatever they want and start selling the land. We are taking that as a criminal issue because anyone who takes state land and sales it, that is corruption and fraud.
HN: But I note there have been few convictions?
SK: Ah no there have been substantial ones maybe just because you have been looking for the big names. Land barons have been convicted and I want to pay tribute to the judiciary for what they have done so far.
HN: What is your ministry doing to prevent any further misappropriation?
SK: The ministry is of course doing something. We have put off with that (issue of land barons), we brought about order.
HN: What can the public expect in terms of transparency going forward?
SK: We want to continue working hard on improving transparency of our councils, transparency in terms of how we handle matters here and we should not be shy to answer or entertain questions that challenge our conduct.
HN: I’m raising this issue in reference to the salarygate at the Harare City Council. There is a consensus those people who abused salaries should in office? Do you not think their abuses and performance failure warrants dismissal?
SK: I would look into it and see who has done what and I will handle the matter.
HN: There perception is that they should not be in office?
SK: Oh true, we should kick out those who would have abused people’s funds.
HN: The mayor said that Zanu PF stalwarts are exempt from rates. Is this true?
SK: How do exempt a person. How do you do that? People pay.
HN: So that’s a lie?
SK: I didn’t say that’s your summary.
HN: why is the government not taking responsibility for the typhoid outbreak as the supervisory authority? Council attributes the deterioration of service delivery to government interference. What is your reaction to that?
SK: We have set up a committee. Minister Parireyatwa is chairing that committee. They are doing very well in tackling the menace. What causes typhoid is known. The city is not clean, the city administration, the city fathers do not attend to issues to do with water, wrong billing, dirty in the city. These are the things that cause problems to us and we are going to ensure that the situation in Harare is restored to normal.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons