Zimbabwe: ‘Hands Off Land Reserved for Recreational Facilities’

Parliament has vowed to clampdown on the rampant conversion of land reserved for recreation into residential and business stands in towns and cities, warning that the net was closing in on the culprits.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation expressed concern over the growing tendency by local authorities to prioritise housing and business over recreation in towns and cities.

The committee issued an ultimatum to such local authorities to rectify the problem or else face the music.

In most urban areas, demand for residential and business stands has forced greedy council officials to bend the rules and convert land reserved for parks and recreational gardens for sale.

In some cases, this has been met with stiff resistance from residents resulting in the issues spilling into courts. The committee is on a national tour of major towns and cities to take stock of the state of recreational facilities and sporting complexes.

Committee chairperson and Chivi North legislator Cde Mathias Tongofa and his team on Monday expressed concern over absence of recreational facilities in towns and cities.

Speaking after meeting Masvingo City’s senior officials over the state of such facilities here, Cde Tongofa warned that his committee would leave no stone unturned to make sure local authorities that converted land planned for recreation accounted for their actions.

“We have noted with concern that in some towns and cities land initially planned for recreational facilities was later converted into either residential or business stands. We are warning such local authorities that we will definitely take action,” said Cde Tingofa.

“Councils who might have converted land reserved for recreation facilities are advised to immediately rectify that and make sure that land reverts to its original intended use because we will definitely act.”

Cde Tongofa said his committee was taking stock of such local authorities and would compile a report at the end of its national tour and recommendations on the necessary remedial action.

The committee wanted local authorities to value the importance of having modern recreation facilities in their localities especially for the youth.

City Engineer Edward Mukaratirwa told the committee that the practice of converting land earmarked for recreation into residential and business stands was rampant in the new suburb of Victoria Ranch.

The sprawling suburb was developed by private players and Eng Mukaratirwa said it was shocking that land use plans initially submitted by the developers were different from the situation on the ground.

“The good thing is that in Masvingo City there is no land for recreational facilities that was taken away and converted for either business or residential stands. Our city is very clean in that respect,” he said.

“We, however, have a problem at Victoria Ranch where that practice is rampant and but we do not have much control because some of the plans go through Masvingo Rural District Council before coming to us.”

Cde Tongofa and his committee ordered Masvingo City Council to make sure that problem was urgently addressed and said it was illegal to convert land reserved for recreation to residential and business use.

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