BULAWAYO – Unregistered private land developers are duping home seekers by constructing illegal structures in Bulawayo without the knowledge of authorities

Local authorities only discover after residents start approaching them for servicing.

This was revealed during the Commission of Inquiry into the Sale of State Land’s tour of farmland in Bulawayo and Matabeleland North acquired by the government for urban settlement.

Land planning officers also unearthed massive irregularities in the allocation of permits during a recent forensic audit of private land developers.

During the tour of Lot 27 A in Lower Rangemore, Provincial Physical Planning officer for Matabeleland North, Raymond Nyandoro, told the land commission that out of the 32 private land developers in the area half of the developers were bogus.

“We have problems with a number of unregistered land developers that construct structures without valid permits. They just draw on their maps without approval from the department of Physical Planning. In Rangemore for example, there are some houses that were already completed without approval,” said Nyandoro.

Provincial Physical Planning officials told the commission that former provincial Physical Planning officer Francis Ndlovu was implicated in the issuance of the fake permits.

Ndlovu was demoted and transferred to Masvingo.

Umguza Rural District Council Chief Executive Officer, Collen Moyo, under whose jurisdiction Rangemore falls, said the local authority was not consulted when a farm was offered to River Valley Properties and Grandvoux Private Limited after acquisition by government.

“The tenants are now coming to us asking for reticulation services such as sewer, water and electricity yet us as the responsible authority are unaware of how that settlement came to be. We need to regularise the settlements and might be forced to demolish some of the structures because they were not inspected,” said Moyo.

Bulawayo City Council Acting Deputy Engineer, Wisdom Siziba, added that illegal structures were squeezing the city’s capacity to deliver adequate services to its residents.

“Looking at the rate at which illegal structures are mushrooming in the city, we are likely to have serious problems. The new stands at Rangemore and Umvutsha are 91,000, which almost equals the number of stands the city is currently servicing. Council will definitely be unable to provide enough water and sewer systems for Bulawayo,” said Siziba.

The Commission on Monday visited Doelfontein and Judds farms in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, where private property developers are suspected to have acquired land under controversial circumstances.

Local authorities have been calling on the government to enact laws to regulate operations of private land developers so that they complete projects and adhere to contractual obligations.

Local authorities say such laws would give them powers to supervise land developers and insist on transparency.

Most councils in the country have no financial capacity to service land and opt to give out tenders to private developers.

But, in some instances, private developers do shoddy jobs and often breach contracts, while little can be done by councils to manage them.

The Commission of Inquiry into the Sale of State Land, chaired by Justice Tendai Uchena, was established to inquire into the sale of State land in and around urban areas since 2005.

The commission began its work in August with preliminary visits to provinces where it has set up meetings with people who bought State land handed over for urban development; were victims of double or multiple allocation of land; people who have been allocated stands on space meant for the building of schools, clinics, roads, recreation sites; people who have been displaced or prejudiced in any way by the re-allocation, resurveying and/or re-pegging stands; people of the above category who have been threatened, harassed, victimised, or forced to pay subscriptions or rentals or to vacate stands against their will and without due process, any other information pertaining to illegal State land transactions known to them.