Harare City Council wants to raise at least US$50 million through the regularisation of more than 25 000 illegally developed residential stands in the capital, drawing the ire of some residents who feel this could encourage more people to flout laid down procedures when acquiring properties.
Others feel this is a ploy by council officials to cash in on the illegal stands as the local authority wants to be paid in foreign currency for the land.
Beneficiaries expressed regret that they were being made to pay for the stands for the second time after they previously made payments to housing cooperatives and land barons.
Under the plan, those who improperly acquired stands in selected areas in high density suburbs will pay US$2 000 to council while those in medium density areas will pay US$6 000 with US$10 000 being required for low density stands.
Among the targeted areas is the Kuwadzana Consortium between Kuwadzana 8 and Kuwadzana Extension, Group 12, Chipo Chashe in Westlea and Parkridge Consortium near Crowborough farm paddocks.
Combined Harare Residents Association programmes manager Mr Reuben Akili said the whole idea was a fundraising agenda rather than a move to provide residents with decent housing.
“Regularising stands upon paying such hefty and unaffordable fees is unjustified. What is important is to understand the rationale behind the regularisation process.
“From our perspectives, it is a fundraising initiative. The US$2 000 for regularising a stand in a high-density suburb is not justified.
“This is clear that the local authority is re-selling the stands to recover the money that was either pocketed by land barons or cooperatives,” he said.
Mr Akili said it was also foolhardy for council to allow people who had built houses on wetlands to continue residing there upon payment of the regularisation fee.
A better option would be to provide alternative land rather than putting lives of people in danger by sanctioning settlements on ecologically sensitive areas.
“We also want to highlight that this comes against a background where the Environmental Management Agency has gazetted a wetlands map with ecologically sensitive areas in the City.
“When the wetlands map comes into effect, it will guide spatial planning in the city, so this seems like racing against time before the wetlands map becomes law,” he said.
A beneficiary in Kuwadzana who declined to be named for fear of victimisation said the council should be sincere on the regularisation exercise.
“We are in a dilemma as we risk paying the fees and then fail to get essential services.
“There is no guarantee the money we will pay will be used to develop our settlements and to provide services,” he said
Another beneficiary said US$2 000 was too much considering that they also paid to housing cooperatives who failed to offer services.
According to minutes of earlier meetings of the committees on finance, licensing, education, health, housing and community services, the charges were denominated in foreign currency to hedge.
“(We have resolved) That council approves these identified areas on the list for regularisation after payment of the regularisation fees of US$2 000 per high density unit, US$6 000 medium density per unit and $US 10 000 low density per unit.
“There should be building plan submission fees and council should approve the building plans,” read the minutes.
Harare City Council said it had become apparent that there were plans that did not go through the necessary change of reservation procedures and some stands that were allocated without layout plan approval.
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Among stipulated guidelines for regularisation is provision of approved town planning layout plan, water and sewer designs, survey layout plan, road and storm water designs.
Other requirements are ownership in the form of either a title deed, agreement of sale, council valid lease agreement and Government valid lease agreement.
The other requirements are a copy of fully completed plan submission form and TPD1 form, permit in case of clusters, endowment payment receipt for sewer reticulation designs and non-title survey diagram as well as fully paid up plan fees and regularisation or penalty fees.
The council said areas which could not be regularised were institutional sites reserved for schools, clinics, libraries and those on wetlands with the Environmental Management Agency assisting in verifying whether the stands were not on wetlands as part of the regularisation process.