Housing Crisis: Land Barons Fuel Chaos in Property Market

Harare – Land barons are creating problems for desperate home seekers by inflicting huge losses on prospective buyers, after their acquired illegal structures are eventually destroyed.

Using inside networks, rogue land developers identify idle large tracts of idle state land, often at cheaper rates then resale at a premium, prejudicing councils’ coffers and residents on municipality housing waiting lists.

Derick Matsengarwodzi 
Zimbabwe housing backlog stands at 1,25 million, presenting land moguls a ready market.

Land cancer
“It has come to the city’s attention that there is shadowy group, inviting unsuspecting Harare residents to participate in fictitious housing schemes. The group is suing social media alleging that there are some council infill stands,” warned the Harare City Council.
Illegal Homes have Been Destroyed in Zimbabwe

The rot is widespread, prompting the minister of Local Government, Saviour Kasukuwere dismissed the entire 25 Chitungwiza town councillors for diverting $7 million (R91 million) in an illicit transaction involving state land in April.

“This is a serious cancer in our society. If you calculate say 13 000 stands being sold at $4 000 (R52 000) or $5 000 (R65 000). This is about $54 million (R702 million) and this is the amount of money our local authorities are losing to individuals who claim to own land,” said the minister.

Even wetlands have not been spared. Illegitimate parallel land authorities comprising architects, surveyors and town planners were formed.

Officials implicated
Prospective home owners often suffer huge losses, without compensation. More than 14 000 structures were destroyed in Chitungwiza in 2013, after an audit report deemed them illegal.

“Local authorities have virtually lost control of one of their most essential functions which is to provide people with residential stands after they have formally registered on the housing waiting lists,” Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Spokesperson, Obert Gutu said.

He added: “Land barons have now virtually taken over all available urban land and they are now profiteering from the sale of residential stands.”

Officials were implicated by the report for selling 23 074 stands valued at $20 million (R260 million).

“Residents have been shortchanged. In our area stands were not developed to standard, characterised by poor workmanship” said Craig Kamudzandu, Galloway Residents Trust member in Norton.

The destruction of illegal structures houses on state land has attracted the sympathy of the first lady.

“You see someone building his or her house from the foundation level to window level and roof level until completion, then when they are about to move in, someone comes and says it’s an illegal structure,” said Grace Mugabe recently.

Estate agents
Town planner James Mwedzi advices home seekers to ask before purchasing any land.

“Prospective buyers need to verify authenticity of the schemes they are dealing with, this can be easily done at the municipal district offices. The district council officials must be able to tell them whether the development is legal or not,” reveals Mwedzi.

Property buyers must consult estate agents for background checks.

The Estate Agents Council of Zimbabwe (EACZ), which maintains an updated record of all estate agents, says four agents had been deregistered for various anomalies, and buyers must consult them for guidance.

Law courts are overwhelmed with unresolved cases of duped buyers involving immovable properties.

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