By Mandla Tshuma and Lulu Brenda Harris
Corrupt land deals are rampant in Ntabazinduna as some villagers who were allocated land by the traditional leadership are reportedly selling the same pieces of land to desperate home seekers in Bulawayo, CITE has since established.
The price of residential stands and houses remains beyond the reach of many in Bulawayo, a development which has forced some residents to turn to the nearby Umguza Rural District areas such as Ntabazinduna which is about 23 km away and other peri-urban settlements.
Some of the stands or pieces of land can be sold for US$500 depending on the size.
Concerned villagers told CITE they were very much disturbed by the way in which land was being parcelled out to people in Ntabazinduna, saying they suspected underhand dealings.
“In Ntabazinduna people are given stands, but we suspect there’s land abuse, corruption and that land barons are selling state land,” said one villager.
The former chief of the area, Nhlanhlayamangwe Felix Ndiweni, a fierce critic of the Zanu-PF government, now in the United Kingdom, was dethroned in December 2019 by the latter on the pretext of a supposed family dispute surrounding his ascendancy to the throne.
The villagers felt that the way people were allocated land in Ntabazinduna, since the removal of Chief Ndiweni was in direct violation of laid down procedures.
“The procedure in acquiring a piece of land in rural areas is such that one applies to their headman and then goes through the Village Development Committee (VIDCO) with the village secretary, forwarding one’s land request to the councillor and the Chief. If they all approve, the community is told on such developments and a stand is allocated,” said some of the villagers.
“But now people are just given stands willy-nilly, anywhere and everywhere in Ntabazinduna and there are no more pastures for our cattle and we do not know how this issue can be dealt with.”
Another source who is familiar with what is happening in Ntabazinduna and had interest in the stands said there are two places close to Ntabazinduna Police Training Depot where stands are being sold.
“The first stands were sold as early as 2012 and they are under Umguza Rural District Council and were serviced by a land developer called Ndlovu,” said the source.
“Then the newest stands are on the other side of the road on the North West side of the police training depot. Chief Ndiweni allocated those stands freely to his people between 2017 and 2018. The settlement in Ntabazinduna is organised like town suburbs when it comes to electricity and water.”
He explained that the beneficiaries are the ones selling those stands at prices starting from US$500 upwards.
“Most people buying come from Bulawayo and I know many police officers from Ross Camp who bought them. Building at the stands is happening at a fast speed.”
He explained that the stands were first allocated with recommendation of the traditional leadership on the basis of beneficiaries having to be people of Ndebele origin and that reflected on their national identity documents.
“New owners would then buy from owners and though it may be known via grapevine,” elaborated the source.
“The chief is not in any way responsible or involved. There are no receipts because it’s not an official sale. To cover for receipts, agreements of sale are prepared and supported by affidavits signed before commissioners of oaths. On corruption, maybe it could have been on village heads recommending their people to be given land by the chief, though unlikely chances are there.”
Posing as a potential buyer to one of the facilitators (name supplied), a CITE reporter was invited to Ntabazinduna and told to ask for directions to his homestead upon getting to Nhlambabaloyi Primary School.
He said the stands measuring 25x120m were going for US$1 200.
Umguza District Development Coordinator (DDC), Tapiwa Zvivovoyi, however, said this matter had not been brought to his attention.
“As to how land is allocated refer to the Communal Land Act combined with Section 13 of the Constitution, it gives the chief power to administer land in line with the existing RDC through the Physical Planning Act, which is the local authority. Ntabazinduna which has old communal lands, the council is in charge of and if settlement is expected, the council has oversight. There are areas where settlement is done in consultation with the planning authority.”
He said in terms of the laws, villagers through their VIDCO can still settle people in the absence of a chief.
“If they (villagers) face hindrances and they want to extend to villages grazing land, they approach the Ward Development Committee (WardCo) chaired by a councillor,” explained Zvivovoyi.
“The WardCo consists of all the village heads in the ward but at this stage nothing would have finalised as there is no expertise on planning. Extension of a village needs more schools and health facilities. So a WardCo will make recommendations that will pass through the ward assembly, which is chaired by the chief. If there is no chief it is chaired by the headman. If there is no headman the village heads can elect one of them from any particular ward.”
He further explained: “But still (in this chain) if there is still no expertise – they must refer to the DDC headed by my office where I coordinate all the expertise within the district. We sit and look at these recommendations, and their increased effects on grazing land and rate of extension and discuss if we have enough resources.”
Zvivovoyi said these recommendations are taken to a full council meeting for approval.
“If this (selling/settlement of land) is done in the absence of this structure, or is outside of this structure, there is an illegality.”
He, however, said he would look into the issue.
“This is something that the village heads and team, or the council and team can handle,” he said.
“But the communities have the right to write to us and tell us about these issues. The VIDCO must be able to solve this, if it fails, it can refer to the WardCo, and if it fails it can refer to my office.”
The DDC said considering his office had not been approached he would assume there was no problem.
“I will check if these allegations are true or false because at this moment they are allegations,” he said.
“I will also inquire from my systems if there is anything like that unless the allegations involve my systems that is a councillor or village heads then we can set a board to look at this, even if the DDC is alleged to be involved.”