Typhoid, Land and Elections The future for Urban land development and service delivery in Zimbabwe
By Byron Mutingwende
The poor and the vulnerable are at the receiving end of urban land corruption, as the vice carries with it a plethora of problems that endanger citizens’ wellbeing.
This emerged at a policy dialogue under the Ethics and Accountability Forum, a platform facilitated by TI Z to provide citizens an opportunity to discuss and propose policy options in areas affected by corruption, lack of transparency, accountability and integrity in society.
Panelists speaking at this EAF at Ambassador Hotel in Harare analysed the current challenges facing the city caused by rampant land corruption linked to the impending 2018 elections, poor urban land governance that is impacting city planning and service delivery resulting in crises of water borne diseases such as typhoid in new and old settlements.
Panelists included CHRA Chief Executive Officer, Mfundo Mlilo, MDC-T Member of the House of Assembly for Hatfield, Dr. Tapiwa Mashakada, Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) Spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire and Election Resource Centre (ERC) representative, Jack Zaba.
In his presentation, CHRA Chief Executive Officer, Mfundo Mlilo said that the scourge of typhoid was yet to be addressed in Harare given the fact that the city council had not addressed the major drivers of the disease such as water shortages, poor sanitation and non-collection of refuse in residential areas.
He also noted that typhoid cases in Harare were being underreported as statistics by the Harare City Council were only coming from Mbare Polyclinic and Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital.
According to the Harare City Council, 132 cases of typhoid have been reported in Harare since December with 2 deaths, 2016 but Mlilo contended the figure is above 300.
He also blamed the Harare City Council for lacking effective disaster response strategies, urging councilors to ensure they implement pro-poor policies.
“Right now, residents are battling with an animal called Wellcash Debt Collectors and there is also the issue of prepaid meters and these are some of the issues that point to a complicity even the opposition councilors in some of the decisions that have affected residents,” said Mlilo.
On a different aspect covered in the dialogue, MDC-T’s Tapiwa Mashakada bemoaned that land continued to be used as a tool for winning elections in Zimbabwe saying the development had largely compromised urban planning.
“What this means is that the authority of councilors at Harare City Council has been subverted and urban planning has been undermined. As long as land continues to be used as a political tool, it will be difficult to expect proper urban planning,” said Mashakada.
The legislator added that the problem of typhoid was largely a result of the abdication of duty by the city fathers since the diarrheal was caused by mismanagement of the environment, water, sanitation and hygiene.
His sentiments were echoed by ERC representative, Jack Zaba and ZimPF Spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire who all concurred that land has always been at the core of the ruling party Zanu PF’s political strategy and that the development had led to sprouting of illegal structures which are often not supported by WASH infrastructure leading to health crisis as well as a humanitarian crisis caused by demolitions of those illegal settlements set up as part of vote buying.
Mawarire said that dishonesty and misrepresentation of facts over land reform was the biggest fraud by Zanu PF carried out ostensibly to empower the previously landless black people who are the majority, yet in reality it was a ploy to win elections ahead of the opposition MDC.
Zaba said that the theatre of electoral manipulation and fraud had shifted from the polling station to the extent to commodities such as land consumables like rice and maize as bait for the votes. He said that delimitation of the constituencies by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was unlikely since doing so would be akin to violating the Constitution.
Participants at the discussion forum castigated the Harare City Council for failing to prioritise service delivery; a development they said had exposed Harare residents to diseases such as typhoid and cholera.
The Harare City Council is currently under investigation by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) following CHRA’s efforts to make the local authority account for needless loss of life arising from poor service delivery.
Transparency International Zimbabwe is concerned about the transparent land allocation that protects the rights of citizens and eliminates the corruption that has become synonymous with it.