Councils call for laws to regulate private land developers

LOCAL authorities have called on government to enact laws to regulate operations of private land developers to ensure speedy completion of projects and strict adherence to contractual obligations.

The laws, local authorities say, 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.

This concern was raised during a land governance indaba hosted by Transparency International Tuesday in Bulawayo as local authorities’ bemoaned lack of laws that regulated the work of private developers.
Bulawayo City Council’s (BCC) Housing Officer, George Sibanda, said authorities could do better than private developers in servicing stands but lacked funds.

“The city council can do a perfect job in servicing stands but we have shortage of personnel and no financial muscle which is why we give out tenders to private land developers,’ said Sibanda.

“If you look at the 865 stands in Luveve 5, you will see how well they came out. Council did take a long time to complete the work as the area had a lot of stones and blasting had to be done but the stands were eventually commissioned in June.

Sibanda added: “Then compare that standard with Cowdray Park stands, which were done by private developers”.

Sibanda highlighted the challenge with private developers was in implementing work, which they did not deliver well.

“If a land developer qualifies to do a job, it is up to that individual to do his best and serve the community. When presenting credentials, the developers manage to convince council and would have done some average work that would have been acceptable. But the challenges comes in implementation, which is not good,” he said.

The housing officer added that city council would then face challenges as they cannot interfere with their work as contract would be signed.

“We can’t be seen meddling in an agreement of sale or when you said you want this but we do realise work with private developers has to complemented by other processes, we have to scrutinize the deal beforehand thoroughly,” Sibanda noted.

Umguza Rural District Council Internal Auditor, Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, lamented that councils have limited influence in the work of private developers.

He claimed most land developers were after cost recovery rather than offering services.

“Developers are out to make business, they don’t want to give you a house they want to make money same way a bakery does not want to give your bread but is after your money,” Ndlovu said.
Ndlovu praised the city of Bulawayo for its stand presale scheme, saying it was advantageous for the resident as they actually paid for the cost of developing that land and hence was cheaper.

According to BCC, money deposited by prospective house owners under the presale scheme is put in a different account to solely finance that project so that once complemented the beneficiaries can move in.

In Bulawayo the price of virgin land, which has not been serviced is $300 but what increases the cost of stand is the servicing such as installing pipes for water, sewer and road construction.

The city council only benefits from the $300 while private developers make money by servicing the land.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association, Acting coordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu also called for the regulation of private developers and urged council to exercise due caution when dealing with them.

“The Bulawayo city councils’ 2017 minutes said 90 percent of its contract with private developers had been breached. It seems as if private developers do as they please. They maximize returns and aren’t interested in proper work but profits. Councils have to deploy
expertise in oversight, contract, conduct it has with private development,” he said.

In response, a representative from Hawkflight Construction – a private land developer, Obert Masara, laid blame on unregistered private developers whom he said were producing poor quality houses.

“There is proliferation of many unregistered players, which has resulted in mistrust between prospective house owners and developers,” he claimed.

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