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Desperate land seekers fall prey to land barons

By Lungile Ngwenya and Senzeni Ncube

LAND barons have invaded Ntabazinduna in Matabeleland North, illegally selling residential stands to desperate land seekers including those based outside the country.

This is prevalent in ward 6 which covers Nhlambabaloyi, Madlelenyoni, Mputshini and Mbelesiniwhere – areas littered with illegal gold mining activities.

An investigation by CITE revealed that the land barons work closely with village heads, often using international phone numbers in various WhatsApp groups targeting potential buyers based abroad.

Posing as a potential buyer, a CITE reporter was told to pay US$3000 for land, including a pegged field by one land baron.

It also emerged that the illegal sale of housing stands is also rampant in Nyamandlovu where stands are being sold for US$1 200 or R18 586.

Another land baron demanded US$30 to travel to Ntabazinduna with this reporter to view the stands on sale and meet a village head to facilitate the transaction.

In WhatsApp groups, stands are being sold for anything upwards of US$5000. Potential buyers were required to pay US$350 to the village head and a further US$20 in registration fees.

However, days later, when asked if the selling of stands is legal, one land baron, a woman, declined any knowledge of illegal dealings.  

“I don’t sell stands and I don’t stay in Ntabazinduna; I don’t know what you are talking about,” she said.

In an interview with CITE, one victim said he was double allocated a stand.

“I was desperately looking for a stand and I was referred to Ntabazinduna. When I had already paid for the land and wanted to start building I found other people already occupying the piece of land that was said to be mine,” the victim said.

“They however refunded me my money after a series of engagements.”

Villagers who spoke to CITE said they are being robbed of pastures through the illegal sale of housing stands.

“This area is already full but what is happening is that the village heads are following up on all those areas where the owners have not yet developed the stands and selling them but according to our knowledge this area is not for sale,” one villager said.

Another villager added that they reported the issue to the police but were told to bring evidence, stalling any investigations by the law enforcement agency.

In September 2021, villagers wrote a letter to the District Administrator expressing their dissatisfaction over the matter.

“We the residents of Ntabazinduna under Umguza district would like to voice our dissatisfaction and concerns about the way our land is being sold by some village heads. We are talking about communal land with no title deed or any development. This has been going on for the past few years and we as a community have not been consulted on the issues,” the letter reads in part.

“Your intervention in the matter will be greatly appreciated…We acknowledge that the village leaders report to your office and as such you have the power to intervene and stop this.”

Bulawayo based lawyer Tanaka Muganyi said Section 332 of the constitution outlawed the sale of communal land.

“Section 4 of the communal land Act states that communal land is vested in the president who shall permit it to be occupied and used per this Act.

“In terms of the Communal Lands Act, (Chapter 20:04) The communal land cannot be subject of a sale in the ordinary sense of the word, but what can be sold however is the occupational right over it subject to the Act,” said Muganyi.

Muganyi said it is illegal for traditional leaders, who are custodians of the communal land, to sell such land or risk prosecution.

Former Ntabazinduna chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Felix Ndiweni ‘there are several recurring adverts for stands being sold in Ntabazinduna.’

“Some of the individuals have been going around stating that they are agents for the traditional leaders when it comes to the sale of stands and Lands in Ntabazinduna.  There are no such “ Agents “ for Traditional leaders.  Such individuals are fraudsters,” he said, adding that some of the culprits are CIOs, police while others belong to the ruling Zanu PF party.

“Hence with such a mix, we as a community are consulting our lawyers as to the best way forward. It may require private Criminal Prosecutions if the safety of the prosecution is in jeopardy,” the former chief added.

Ward 6 village head, Bekithemba Ncube said the complaints on the alleged illegal selling of communal land in Ntabazinduna was being motivated by tribalism.

“Kufana lokukhuluma ngezinja ezikhonkotha zibaleka ezingafuni kukhonkotha inyamazana ziyibamba, take my message as it is, because we are the ones on the ground, we know everything that is happening, why is it that those who are doing illegal selling of stands are not being arrested and now they are barking whilst they are away,” said headman Ncube.

“The police are always here, they were given land, even the army bosses were given land. Those people who are complaining are basing it on why people from other areas are being given stands.”

Ncube said the victims have failed twice in court.

“The chief (Ndiweni) said he wants to give everyone in Zimbabwe land because he is everyone’s chief, he is not segregating anyone but the thing is these people who are claiming that are using tribalism and their issue has gone two times to court, their issue was going to be a success but because of tribalism, they are not winning because the constitution of Zimbabwe is saying any person can leave where ever they want,” he said.

He added, “The way they are trying to address this issue is by using lies, and using other people who have their own disputes in their homesteads. As you know, there seems to be a feud in the Chief’s homestead, his brother is using that to incite a lot of irregularities within the area.”

“There is nothing like that, its only tribalism, the police and the law is there. The police

Contacted for a comment, Matabeleland North Police Spokesperson Glory Banda and Umguza District Development Coordinator (DDC), Tapiwa Zivovoyi both referred the publication to the Ministry of Lands, agriculture, fishery, water, and rural resettlement Anxious Masuka.

Minister Masuka was not picking up his phone when sought for a comment.

Umguza Rural District Council chief executive officer Collen Moyo did not respond to questions sent to him.

Minister of state and provincial affairs for Matabeleland North, Richard Moyo said he is aware of illegal selling of stands in Ntabazinduna.

“Chief Ndiweni is the one responsible for these illegal dealings, he left that kind of situation, so I think the Ministry of lands should stop it because I heard that he left his headmen in charge of giving people stands in grazing areas and people’s farms,” said Minister Moyo.

“We are going to send the Ministry of Lands and the police to go and stop the illegal selling of stands because it is a crime since it’s happening within people’s farms and grazing areas.”

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