Zimbabwe: Residents Block Invasion of Open Space

Municipal Correspondent

Rugare residents are up in arms with Harare City Council for consenting to the pegging of 72 stands at an open space that is between the suburb and the industrial sites opposite the residential area.

Council has already started pegging the stands and setting up a site office, while the mobilisation of building materials is underway at stand number 1428 bordered by Gutu and Mambo roads and Sairi and Nzamare streets.

In 2001, the same council destroyed a mosque that had been constructed on the same piece of land on the basis that it was a breathing space.

Rugare residents and local leadership have since petitioned Government over the “invasion” of the open space.

“Our reasons are that this is our breathing space, a wetland and our sewer pipes are located underneath and are always bursting,” said Mr Josphat Wanyambe, speaking on behalf of the Rugare community. “Council is allowing the development of houses here over sewer pipes, yet we are already battling with burst sewer pipes. The spaces are also playing grounds for our children.”

Zanu PF shadow legislator for Southerton constituency Cde Andrew Makahamadze also petitioned the Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province Senator Oliver Chidawu over the issue.

“These open spaces were left as breathers so they should not be occupied,” he said. “Council should be concentrating on removing the garbage that has accumulated on this space.”

Cde Makahamadze, who earlier this year, managed to obtain a High Court order barring council from turning Gilwell Square, along Bexley Road, into at least 29 low-density stands despite objections from residents, called for an intensive land audit of council’s land bank.

“This is key because that is the future and not the one the mayor was talking about when we were fighting council over the development in Southerton,” he said. “We thank President Mnangagwa for walking the talk on corruption.”

When Southerton residents were fighting council over the development of houses on areas reserved for recreation, Harare mayor Councillor Herbert Gomba had justified council’s action, saying it was being progressive.

“In terms of the Regional Town and Country Planning Act, council reserves the right to change reservations or use land and will do that in consultation with the residents who are asked to object within a specific period,” he said at the time.

“Those areas were left by the then planners for future use. They are open in order to accommodate future plans. This is why you see dualisation being done because land was left open in anticipation of the need to accommodate future growth. There is nothing criminal about that. It is called urban planning. We are now in the future.”

Gomba and several of his officials in the housing department were arrested in the past few days, and are having their day in court over corrupt allocation of residential stands.

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