By Byron Mutingwende
Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) has called for the arrest of perpetrators of corruption in order to rein in land corruption and illegal settlements.
The calls come following the resumptions of demolition of illegal urban housing structures, beginning in 2013, targeting most high-density suburbs in Harare. The demolitions have so far affected places like Ruwa, Damafalls, Chitungwiza, Budiriro, Glenview 4, Dunstan Farm and Arlington farms near Harare international Airport.
In its policy brief on urban corruption and demolitions, TIZ said housing demolitions constitute the intentional physical destruction of a house or of a portion thereof by government forces.
“Housing demolitions have far-reaching socio-economic impact on the affected communities: Not only do the demolitions result sometimes in death, there is further a direct connection to the loss of access to basic commodities such as water and food and a strong correlation to the deterioration of health and education. In Zimbabwe, housing demolitions pose a country-wide problem,” TIZ said.
The leading corruption watchdog said that given the continued impunity for corruption offenders, the growing urban population pressures and spiraling housing demand against the slow progress in servicing and allocating affordable land for residential developments, there was need for the arrest of those involved in the corrupt activities.
In Harare alone the city council estimates that there are 74 illegal settlements, raising signals that the demolitions are more likely to continue.
TIZ said in light of the Zimbabwe Constitution, the Declaration of Rights and many international conventions to which the Zimbabwean government is a signatory such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the on-going demolitions and forced evictions without alternative shelter are a violation of fundamental human rights including the right to shelter, life, dignity and due process of the law.
The anti-corruption proponents have proffered possible circumstances and factors contributing to illegal settlements and how the government can intervene differently and in a more sustainable way to solve the problem.
“There are many different circumstances surrounding the contested legality of demolished and targeted illegal settlements. However, our analysis of a range of cases shows the common thread of corruption as the driver of illegal settlements on-going wave of demolitions. Corruption is the abuse of trusted power for private gain. We distinguish between two broad forms of corruption: political and administrative corruption. The former is concerned with corruption that influences the formulation of laws, policies or revoking of licenses while the later alters the implementation of policies and procedures to give undue benefit/ interest.”
They said administrative corruption is expressed in lack of transparency in the allocation of state land to housing cooperatives for residential purposes.
Harare has witnessed many housing cooperatives that have been allocated state land and presiding over the housing projects which do not comply with the city of Harare by-laws. For instance, council requires that water and sewer be installed before constructions.
However, a number of housing cooperatives allocated state land were not complying with that requirement with Harare South’s Ward 1 in Southlea Park being an example.
“The City of Harare has exposed bureaucratic corruption by its planning and water departments in the ‘regularisation’ and servicing of illegal settlements. On the 5th of February 2016, City of Harare dismissed City Water Engineer, Melchizedel Chaniwa for approving water and sewer reticulation design on illegal settlements and by implication regularizing their existence.”
On the other hand is political corruption. Houses at Arlington Farm along Airport Road have been demolished following a notice given to residents late last year. The residential area was declared illegal as the houses were built on Civil Aviation of Zimbabwe property reserved for expansion of Harare International Airport.
However, documentation shows that land was legally offered to Nyikavanhu Housing Project for cooperative housing development. The Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing wrote an offer letter to Nyikavanhu Housing Project.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe also cleared the subdivision of the farm into residential stands.The Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office, after being approached by Nyikavanhu housing cooperative also wrote a letter to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, confirming that the cooperative was in lawful occupation of the land and had government permission. The City of Harare proceeded to demolish the settlements despite evidence of legal allocation.
TIZ has outlined attendant costs of corruption. They said demolitions destroy citizens’ life savings and investment and waste state resources directed towards demolitions that could otherwise have been used in a productive way in improving the economy.
On the other hand, demolitions affect the enjoyment of other fundamental rights.They affect the enjoyment of other fundamental rights including right to adequate housing, food, water, health, education, security of the person and home, freedom of movement and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Women, children and People Living with HIV/ AIDS are also affected. Demolitions disproportionately impact women, children and People Leaving with HIV/ AIDS who are already vulnerably groups in society who continue to have no or minimal access to shelter, food and other basic needs in society.