‘Land barons hide behind politicians’

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\n HARARE – Local Government authorities are scared of reining-in land barons as they are spooked by the politicians’ names given to the rogue developers’ cooperatives, National Housing ministry permanent secretary George Mlilo said.

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\n This comes as land barons continue to dupe unsuspecting desperate home seekers, with no meaningful action taken against them, as their housing projects are named after top politicians, giving an impression that they gave their blessings and are involved.

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\n “These land barons, some of them call their cooperatives ‘Mama Mafuyana’ (the late widow of late vice president Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo) to scare officials away, abusing these names,” Mlilo said during a meeting with service providers who are set to roll out civil servants’ residential stands scheme last week.

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\n “Some call themselves ‘Grace Mugabe’ and (claim) she is their patron, so who am I?  What do you want us to do?” he said.

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\n Recently, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa revealed how land barons are giving him “sleepless nights” by raking in millions of dollars in untaxed money.

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\n Chinamasa said he was so incensed with land barons that he was now agreeing with the notion that “there is no rule of law in Zimbabwe”.

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\n The Treasury chief had just been briefed that a Caledonia land baron had dribbled past Local Government ministry and council on his way to collect a whopping $57 million.

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\n It was not clear if government arrested the perpetrator.

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\n The astronomical figure infuriated Chinamasa — currently battling to collect more taxes.

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\n Meanwhile, Mlilo said government will build 500 000 housing units which it expects to be complete in 18 months after commencement in March.

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\n Last week’s meeting sought to formulate strategies that will be implemented to facilitate housing delivery.

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\n Mlilo pleaded with the service providers to offer cost-effective rates, saying government was operating under financial constraints.

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\n The main barriers to residential construction in Zimbabwe remains regulation, environmental requirements fees and building materials, which are still high owing to duty imposed on imports.

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\n Constructors, however, advised government to beat high costs of building by adopting modern, cost-effective ways of construction.

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\n Mlilo also decried government’s inability to fulfil its ZimAsset promise of constructing close to half-a-million housing units by 2018.

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\n Instead, many have been left homeless after their houses were demolished due to a range of irregularities in the country’s housing sector, which include the existence of land barons and corrupt council officials.

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\n “We had put bids to ministry of Finance to develop housing in this country and we got zero from minister Chinamasa. Zero completely,” Mlilo said.

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\n “We had put up a dream in our ZimAsset that by 2018, we would have come up with more than 315 000 houses but we are close to 2018, but that dream is not anywhere near being realised,” he said.

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