Zimbabwe has a new term in the property market. Land Baron is the term. This is a brand new term that never existed before 2000. Coincidentally, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) arrived on the political scene in the 2000 watershed elections where the party fared fairly well in urban local authorities.
That signalled the birth of land barons. By definition, land barons are urban land thieves who, by their close proximity to municipality officials, twist urban by-laws governing land expropriation and exploitation, making themselves the new law and selling land corruptly acquired using their proxies or themselves if they have sufficient corrupt power.
The era of land barons has not only brought headache to council alone, but has brought untold suffering to unsuspecting home owners who buy land from this unscrupulous new crop of ‘MDC businessmen’ and often-times their properties are destroyed to pave way for the planned development by the rightful owners of land they would have acquired under false pretentions.
An election is coming in 72 hours and Zimbabwe is presented with a golden opportunity to overthrow urban anarchy. Also up for overthrow is poor service delivery, disrespect for urban-by laws, national laws and human rights. Zimbabwe has a chance to redeem itself from the law of the jungle that has been brought to town by greedy MDC councils which have rough ridden the electorate for the past 18 years. Eighteen years is a good length of time and any person who reaches that age is considered to be of reasonable age and has a right and responsibility for majority action. So, Zimbabwe has come of age and has qualified for this right to overthrow wrongs and install the right.
In the 1940s, urban settlements were designed with tarmac roads. In this new era of land barons, 80 years later, there are gravel roads like rural townships. In fact, those who get gravel will be the lucky ones. The not-so-lucky never get any roads, they have to drive through any open space without an impediment or dug hole. The path used today may end up with a house built on it or a well dug tomorrow. Instead of running water, there are wells, blair toilets and pit latrines in town! If the electorate allows national development to go in this direction, there would be pole and dagga houses in Borrowdale in twenty years time. A game park will be established in Harare gardens and traffic lights will be demoted to Christmas lights. Already, paths and guesswork roads are the new highways in Harare, the originally designed roads had to be inherited by Government after the MDC driven council had shifted its energies to matters outside the Urban Councils Act and neglected the roads to death.
Not only was anarchy introduced to the newly developed land baron suburbs, but it was also introduced to established suburbs. Rates were and are still being collected for non-rendered services. Areas like Mabvuku only got running water this month since the past ten years. They were subjected to water bills. Every Harare house today is subjected to a revenue collection levy, refuse which is not collected. In ‘Landbarondale’, council can neither impose any levying of any sort because the sprouting new settlements are not on the city map. It is impossible to levy property tax on structures nonexistent in urban maps. The City of Harare was designed and put under an organised map more than a hundred years ago. Today, outlaws masquerading as businessmen have taken the city towards haphazard semi-rural settlements. If nothing is done, the next hundred years will see Harare turning into a rural area with cattle roaming the streets of Harare and herd boys taking turns to run the affairs of the city.
Now is the time to wrestle the city from herd boys. That power is vested in the hand of every voter. Every voter has a patriotic duty to defend Harare through voting a new bureaucracy which respects the rule of law. Any voter who chooses to spurn this once in five years opportunity will rue the day she chose not to use this important opportunity and responsibility.
Harare today is home to five thousand graves of cholera victims, a medieval disease which raged Budiriro in 2008 under the watchful eye of a proud MDC council. The same party is promising to run the country better. Yes, the country! This is not a laughing but a crying matter. Let us not just cry but defend ourselves with the vote.