By Philemon Jambaya
HARARE residents have said the setting up of a task force to deal with the crisis created by the illegal sale of land and mushrooming informal markets in the Harare Metropolitan province was a case of gross misplaced priority.
The Harare Provincial Development Coordinator, Tafadzwa Muguti, last year set up the task force to deal with the illegal sale of state and council land, among other issues.
The residents associations are arguing that the position of co-ordinator was not supported by a legal instrument, but was being used to usurp the powers of the local authorities.
The office of the PDC has also established five command centres, which are being headed by Zimbabwe Republic Police Chief Superintendents.
In a letter dated November 5, 2020, Muguti said the joint task force would deal with the illegal sale of stands in Harare.
“The task force is a tactical strategy in addressing the crisis that currently prevails within the province.
“This is characterised by a lawless society that has enjoyed perpetual freedom disregarding council by-laws, engaging in illegal sale of State and local authority land as well as establishing informal commercial enterprises in reserved and undesignated locations,” reads part of the letter.
The role of the taskforce included dealing with land barons, illegal settlers and illegal land sales, illegal vending and environmental pollution, local authority asset theft and recovery.
Its duties also included dealing with corruption in local authorities, unregistered and unlicensed businesses, illegal immigrants, illegal money changers and money laundering, road safety and traffic law enforcement, prevention of sand and water poaching.
The economic challenges facing the country, characterised by foreign currency and fuel shortages, have negatively affected local authorities across Zimbabwe.
With challenges of poor service delivery, residents associations in Harare have said the PDC should direct his energies towards the provision of quality service delivery.
“The PDC is misdirecting his energy. As a country we have seen hundreds of taskforces. We need service delivery not these task forces,” Harare Metropolitan Residents Forum (HAMREF) chairperson, Marvelous Khumalo said.
“The PDC was out of order.As the Harare Metropolitan Residents Forum we are a constitutional and legally founded institution, which happens to be a network of residence association operating within the Harare Metropolitan province.
“The initiative by the provincial head to appoint a taskforce to look into an array of issues is a very sad development in the sense that prior to this development, the PDC did not consult residence associations and stakeholders on their concerns.”
Khumalo queried the mismatch between the astronomical rates and service delivery, which he said was a major concern to residents.
“As residents our principal priority is the deterioration of service delivery and the continued rise of cost of services which do not tally with the service we receive from local authorities,” he said.
“This should be taken in the context that most local authorities reviewed upwards their rates early (last) year and the review was not matched to civil servants’ salaries and majority of citizens and these reviews were done in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown when most (people) were struggling.”
Khumalo said the office of the PDC was improperly constituted.
“His position is not allocated for in the Constitution or the Urban Councils Act. We have an illegally constituted office chasing other illegal formations for instance illegal money changers and vendors not considering his office which is not allocated for in various acts of Parliament,” he said.