Land barons in Harare are running havoc by invading wetlands at a time when authorities are busy attending to pressing COVID-19 issues prompting to appeal to authorities to act against such criminals.
Residents have scaled-down on monitoring activities being undertaken on wetlands and land barons are now capitalizing on the situation and intensifying invasions.
The Marimba River which feeds into Lake Chivero is under serious threat as a result of the wetlands invasions.
Residents from the Greencroft area have expressed serious concern over the issue and called on the council to act.
“Whilst we are under lockdown, land barons are not stopping. A wetland behind the Ellis Robins High School area of Greencroft and Sentosa has had two stands already pegged and cleared near the headwaters of the Marimba River tributary and bricks are already on site.
“One of the builders at the sight has said that they will begin building soon,” said a resident on condition of anonymity.
The Zimbabwe Combined Residents and Ratepayers Association (ZICORRA) blamed corruption for the continued destruction of wetlands in Harare.
ZICORRA is also pursuing the issue of the invasion of the Ellis Robins wetland and investigations by the association shows that developers who have invaded the wetland had offer letters which the association said could have been fraudulently acquired.
“Why must institutions keep corrupt officials within their ranks? When someone signs offer letters or building plans for developments on wetlands, they are guilty of denying Harare residents the right to water. It’s actually shocking that the developers have all the required paperwork when they are seeking to build on a wetland. Corruption and greed is behind all these fraudulent activities.
“If this kind of a situation is allowed to continue, then efforts to address Harare’s water crisis will be in vain,” said ZICORRA’s provincial chairperson for Harare, Lawrence Kuleya.
The Councilor for Ward 7, Happymore Gotora refuted claims the area was a wetland.
“I disagree with people who are saying the area is a wetland because you do not even need a special foundation to build there. The other developer was taken to the police by residents and he produced all the required paperwork including offer letters. I am also aware that there are about 20 other stands that were allocated at the area by the previous council and all this was done above board,” said Gotora.
Residents who spoke on condition of anonymity blamed his inaction over the continued invasion of wetlands in his area.
Asked on the current status of wetlands in Harare, Council’s Environmental Management Committee Chairperson, Councilor Kudzai Kadzombe said she was going to enquire and give feedback but had however not done so by the time of going to print
Wetlands are major water sources for Harare but have of late been under serious threat from urban farming and construction projects.
Stakeholders are making concerted efforts to save the wetlands with the Harare Wetlands trust mobilizing community-based organizations to actively participate in saving wetlands in Harare.
Harare Wetlands Trusts’ (HWT) Residents Liaison Officer, Jimmy Mahachi said they have noted with concern an increase in the case of invasion of wetlands during the lockdown.
“We continue to receive disturbing reports from areas such as Mount Pleasant, Malborough, Hillside among others and it is quite clear that land barons are taking advantage of the lockdown. We, however, continue to mobilize residents and court action also remains an option for us,” said Mahachi.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is on record calling for action against land barons who continue to invade wetlands in Harare but on the ground, the practice is apparently going on unabated.