FILE -- In this Sept. 29, 2013 file photo a game ranger stands next to a rotting elephant carcass poisoned by poachers with cynide in Hwange National Park in Zimbabawe. Poachers in Zimbabwe have used cyanide to kill dozens of elephants for their ivory tusks. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

War Over Hwange Stands

About 400 Empumalanga Phase 4 beneficiaries have petitioned Hwange Local Board (HLB) over the authority’s failure to provide essential services nine years after they bought their stands.

Disgruntled residents submitted a petition to HLB on 26 March this year citing failure by the board to provide water, sewer and road infrastructure to the stands allocated to them in 2009. The residents, who have formed a grouping called Empumalanga Phase 4 Association, are up in arms against the local authority after it allegedly demanded a top-up to service their stands.

“We, the undersigned, owners of stands at Empumalanga Phase 4, are gravely concerned that your organisation is failing to provide required services to the mentioned area where development has to take place.

“We feel marginalised because these stands were allocated to us in 2009 and we paid all service fees but up to now nothing has been done,” reads the petition, a copy shown to The Chronicle.

“Firstly, there are no access roads to the Phase 4 area.

“This hinders development of stands for occupation by the said land-owners, causing unofficial routes to be paved across other people’s stands, leading to conflicts when such routes are blocked during setting out of the same.

“This also results in untold damage to vehicles transporting building materials to the area.”

Residents argue that failure by the authority to provide them with basic sanitation was exposing them to risks of outbreaks of diseases as they were now forced to buy water or fetch it from unprotected sources.

“Your organisation is failing to provide water pipes to the stands, causing vulnerability to outbreaks of diseases as land-owners buy water fetched from unsafe water sources such as sewage overflows and open pits.

“This may be harmful to builders who use it. Lastly, there is no sewer system in the area.

“This clearly brings a health hazard to people doing construction work and caretakers of finished buildings, while awaiting authority to occupy them.

“We therefore demand a response to this petition within seven days of receiving it, detailing what measures are being taken to rectify this problem,” said the residents.

They threatened unspecified action if HLB fails to address their demands. Chairperson, Mr Ephraim Dube said the council was violating the law by denying them fully serviced stands.

“Contrary to the Urban Councils Act, which stipulates that all municipalities should allocate stands that are already serviced, HLB issued stands and allowed people to construct without the essential servicing such as roads, sewer and water reticulation.

The Phase 4 landowners felt cheated since local board was in the process of servicing stands at Empumalanga West, which came well after Empumalanga Phase 4,” he said.

Mr Dube said a meeting of the affected residents held over the weekend resolved to resist council’s demands to top up the money they paid.

“The residents paid $920 in 2009 for the stands. It is alleged that council wants a top up of $2 217 for sewer reticulation and water.

“It would appear HLB is asking for a loan from beneficiaries, which residents rejected in the feedback meeting. Stand owners indicated that $920 in 2009 was a lot of money then and that it was enough to do the servicing of the said stands,” he said.

HLB chief executive officer, Mr Ndumiso Mdlalose said they were seized with the matter and have since allocated a budget towards the project.

“We have come up a way forward concerning the issue. We discussed the issue through their residents association and made some resolution.

“In fact we have since allocated a budget towards the project and we are just waiting for the budget to start work,” said Mr Mdlalose.

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