HARARE – Government is on a collision course with the Harare City Council (HCC) after it failed to heed calls for it to hand back 15 houses illegally repossessed from homeowners in Mabvuku.
The houses were allegedly taken from their bona fide owners and illicitly sold to council officials, members of the police and ordinary citizens.
Government has now ordered that the houses be given back to their original owners after one of the victims, Hamish Muringazuva wrote to Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to protest the council action.
Government took the matter up and ordered Mabvuku district council office to investigate, and submit a report to the district administrator for onward transmission to the office of the director of urban authorities, Priscilla Mudzinge.
In a November 4, 2013 letter to Mudzinge, Harare metropolitan provincial administrator Alfred Tome ordered the local authority to act swiftly in resolving the matter.
Tome also directed that former Mabvuku district officer, Miyedzo Diza, who is implicated in the repossession scandal, to explain the mess while Harare director of Housing and Community Services James Chivavaya was ordered to rein in his subordinates.
“After thorough investigations, it emerged that the houses that were illegally repossessed are 15 and not 111 as claimed by Muringazuva in his letter to the minister.
“Out of the 15 that are alleged to have been taken away forcibly by Harare Council officials and a councillor, two have been returned to the bona fide owners and only 13 are now left.
“We recommend that the district officer should act quickly so that all those people in the open should be back in their houses before the onset of the rain season.
“The then district officer, Miyedzo Diza should account for these anomalies and the director of housing should also take decisive action on his subordinates who are engaging in these activities,” said Tome.
The new occupants have however, refused to vacate the houses claiming they are the bona fide owners as they were allocated the houses by council — setting the stage for a collision course between government and the local authority.
Chivavaya was not picking up his phone when attempts were made to get a comment from the city fathers.
The Daily News on Sunday spoke to 82 year-old Beaullah Mhete of Mabvuku Chizhanje who lost a house she has owned since 1972 to former MDC councillor Elias Gengezha.
Mhete, who together with over a dozen others, had gone to reclaim their houses in line with the government directive but faced resistance from the new occupants said she had gone to seek medical care in Mutare in 2009 when she discovered that her house had been sold.
“I was shocked to hear the councillor saying he was the new owner of the house that I acquired in 1972.
“When government ordered our return, we were relieved but now I am being denied entry as he has refused to vacate,” said Mhete.
The original owners of the houses are either deceased, elderly or are orphans who inherited the properties from their deceased parents.