THE economic hardships that the country is going through have resulted in several local authorities repossessing thousands of undeveloped residential and commercial stands, which owners have also failed to pay rates for, an investigation by the Financial Gazette’s Property has revealed.
The investigation revealed that since the dollarisation of the economy in 2009, many beneficiaries of housing schemes around the country had failed to comply with a section of the Urban Councils’ Act that requires them to develop their stands within a stipulated period, resulting in local authorities repossessing them.
While in most cases local authorities give home seekers 12 months within which they should make meaningful developments, some of the beneficiaries have gone for more than 10 years without making any developments.
In most of these cases, the beneficiaries would also be defaulting on monthly rates due to the local authorities.
Under the Urban Councils’ Act, local authorities are allowed to repossess undeveloped stands without paying any compensation.
Among the local authorities that have moved in to repossess stands are Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Norton, Victoria Falls, Chinhoyi, Makonde, Zvimba, Chipinge, Nkayi, Umguza, Mvurwi, Mupandawana, and Murambinda.
The decision by the local authorities to repossess the stands was confirmed by the High Court in October last year when Justice Nicholas Mathonsi threw out a case in which one Kingdom Kamangira had dragged the Chitungwiza Municipality to court demanding the nullification of the repossession of a commercial stand in Zengeza on which he had not done anything since it was allocated to him in 2006.
Chitungwiza Municipality is in the process of repossessing about 260 stands, including about 70 that were identified late last year.
The Bulawayo City Council has over the past year repossessed about 200 residential and commercial stands, including one owned by Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister, Obert Mpofu’s family.
Most of the properties being repossessed are in the city’s low density areas such as Matsheumhlope, Burnside, Manningdale, Newton West, Riverside, Hillside, Woodville, Queensdale and Sunninghill among others.
A fortnight ago, Makonde Rural District Council published a notice in which it indicated its intention to repossess about 620 stands in Murereka and Lion’s Den if the beneficiaries did not make good their side of the bargain by March 30.
Zvimba Rural District Council, whose boundary starts on the Western fringes of Harare, is in the process of repossessing 829 low density stands in its Sandton Park suburb near Nyabira as well as 627 plots in its Rainham development just outside Harare. It is also taking back another 36 plots in another development known as Lot 2A of Rainham. The other stands being repossessed by the same local authority are at Murombedzi Growth Point.
Chinhoyi Municipality has been repossessing some residential stands in Rujeko and Ruvimbo suburbs that have remained undeveloped.
The Victoria Falls Municipality is repossessing about 200 residential and commercial stands that have been lying idle for years. The affected stands are in the Moringa, Mukali, Mukanya and Nyakumbi areas. The Victoria Falls Municipality has a policy of repossessing undeveloped stands after six years in the case of high-density areas, three years in medium-density areas and two years in low-density areas.
The Municipality of Chegutu announced early this month that it would be repossessing 56 residential and commercial stands if the beneficiaries remained in default by February 5.
In September last year, the Karoi Municipality announced that it was suspending a policy of selling residential stands after realising that it had to repossess more than 60 percent of the stands it parcelled out to home seekers over the years that had remained undeveloped.
Instead, the Karoi Municipality decided to partner private investors to develop 2 600 core-houses at its Peter-Groot Farm that it would sell to home-seekers, rather than selling undeveloped stands.
A private housing developer, the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Housing Association, in December last year notified nearly 200 beneficiaries of its Galloway Housing Project in Norton of its intention to repossess their stands after they had defaulted on their instalment payments for extended periods of time.
Zimbabwe’s local authorities are saddled with staggering housing waiting lists totalling more than 2,1 million.
While some of the beneficiaries hold the stands for speculative purposes, in a majority of cases the harsh economic environment prevailing in Zimbabwe, in which most citizens are living from hand-to-mouth without any savings, becomes impossible for them to develop residential stands that would have been allocated to them by local authorities.
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