ZIMBABWE – Several Government officials, among them Harare provincial administrator Mr Alfred Tome, have been sucked into the Arlington Estate saga where Harare City Council is destroying houses built on land earmarked for the expansion of Harare International Airport.
Documents in our possession show that various Government departments had authorised Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative to build houses on the land.
Over 100 houses were demolished by Harare City Council and the owners say the cost of building each of the houses ranged between $30 000 and $150 000.
The settlers say as law-abiding citizens, they cannot resist Government plans to expand the airport, but implored Government to allocate them stands of equivalent value elsewhere.
According to a letter written by Harare provincial administrator Mr Alfred Tome dated April 4, 2013, to Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative, clearly indicating that it originated from his office, complete with a date stamp, the land was legally offered to the cooperative for housing development.
The letter was referenced: “Confirmation that Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative was offered subdivision E of Arlington Estate 530:25” and addressed: “To Whom it may concern”.
“The above subject matter is relevant,” said Mr Tome.
“Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative has been legally offered land for the housing development purposes.
“This decision was arrived at after intensive and extensive consultation with relevant ministries and organisations. It means, therefore, evidence of development should now be in place since there is no prohibitive interferences in place. Please be advised. If there is any further information you may require, we are ready to furnish you with it.”
Mr Tome yesterday distanced himself from the letter.
“I cannot confirm the authenticity of the document, given the advancement in technology, it may have been tempered with,” he said in an interview.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, in a letter written by acting director of airports Ms Priscilla Mawire, cleared the subdivision of the farm into residential stands.
In a letter responding to the application by the cooperative for the subdivision, Ms Mawire said, “We refer to your application for Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe clearance to the above subdivision proposal.
“Please be advised that Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe cleared your application and development should be carried out according to the requirements listed by Harare City Council Master Plan.”
Ms Mawire was however not reachable as she was said to be out of office for the rest of the week.
Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative at one time approached the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office complaining that the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing was withdrawing its layout plan on the farm.
Mr N Mutsonzira of the Civil Division wrote to the ministry confirming that the co-operative was in lawful occupation of the land and had Government permission to develop residential stands.
“Therefore, such development can only be stopped for a lawful reason and in the absence of such lawful reason the refusal to approve the layout plan is unlawful and may expose you to some lawsuit,” he said in the letter.
“You are, therefore, advised to reconsider your position and make a decision that is within the law. In the absence of such a lawful decision you are, therefore, advised to comply with the Government’s position to the cooperative to develop land into residential stands.”
But the Harare City Council yesterday said the housing co-operative did not bring any building plans for approval.
“The owner of the land is the State,” the city director of works Engneer Philip Pfukwa said. “The current demolitions taking place are under the direction of Government. We are mere contractors. All this is directed by Government. Government could have engaged any other contractor to do it.”
Eng Pfukwa said the area around the airport was not suitable for housing development.
The land in question belonged to Portland Holdings before it was acquired by Government in 2010.
In an offfer letter addressed to the chairperson of Nyikavanhu Housing Cooperative by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and signed on behalf of the ministry’s secretary by Mr S M Sibanda dated January 15, 2006, the ministry granted the cooperative permission to develop portions of the remainder of Subdivision E of Arlington Estate.
“This letter serves to advise that you are now permitted to develop portions of the remainder of subdivision E of Arlington Estate which you occupied before Operation Restore Order (Murambatsvina),” reads the letter.
The letter went on to list a number of guidelines the housing co-operative was expected meet with regards to logistics to start building.
Efforts to contact Mr Sibanda were however fruitless yesterday as he was said to have left the civil service.
Another letter written by acting district administrator Mr Godfrey Maesera also confirms that Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative was known and recognised by the Office of the Governor and Resident Minister and that it was based at Arlington Estate Subdivision E.
A representative of the settlers, Ms Enipha Chapinga, yesterday said some Government officials were misinforming President Mugabe on the state of the land.
“He should have been given a clear picture that the land belonged to a co-operative which had clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority which indicated that they had nothing to do with the land,” she said.
“If the Government had plans for the land, it should have communicated with us as there was no court order issued to us.”