Without Property Deeds, Matobo Residents Fear Losing Their Homes

Maphisa residents are in a panic over title deeds that have not been issued for over 15 years—creating loopholes for corruption. Council officials, however, say there’s no need to fret.

Mafuyana residents in Maphisa, Matobo district never imagined they would one day lose their houses.

The ward 22-suburb residents are beneficiaries of a 2005 government housing resettlement programme named Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai.

A successor to Operation Murambatsvina that displaced several thousands of people, the programme promised beneficiaries to “stay-in-peace”, but this is no longer the case.

The residents are fretting over their houses’ ownership because not a single structure has a title deed – an essential document for proof of property ownership.

After Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai the local authority has allocated more than 1000 residential stands of varied sizes to residents of the township named after the late heroine Johana Mafuyana Nkomo.

The sizes range from 200 to 1200sqm at the cost of US$10/sqm, residents told The Citizen Bulletin.

In separate interviews, the medium to high-density township residents revealed that not a single title deed had been issued, giving many sleepless nights.

‘‘Council legally allocated the stands. However, there is growing concern and anxiety from people on the issue of title deeds.”

“People bought stands, and they invested thousands of dollars in building structures but legally speaking they don’t yet own anything. A title deed is what confirms ownership,” says Khumbulani Ndlovu, a resident.

Just over 1000 stands were allocated in the Mafuyana area. Units are at different development stages from foundation level, window level, roofing level and some have completed units.

About 500 units have been completed and are occupied; the suburb is home to about 2000 families.

In 2020, a meeting convened between residents and council officials to resolve the matter which saw the latter claiming that the issuance of title deeds is a lengthy process and costly in the upwards of US$300 per unit.

However, residents are not convinced, Khulekani Tshuma, a Maphisa Area Committee member, accuses council of fraud.

“We pay a lease of US$50 per year of which council officials say we will stop once title deeds are issued. No time frame is given,” says Tshuma.

Tshabalala, another member of the same committee, adds: “On title deeds, residents have been paying lease fees and some have since completed their structures. Council says it has budgeted for a title survey to be done by the surveyor general’s office. This has opened a loophole for agents to grease or bribe officials to get title deeds.”

Under the country’s by-laws, if a land title survey is being carried out for residential areas, a registered surveyor with the Surveyor-General’s Office needs to survey the site and see it satisfies council requirements before one gets their title.

If a structure does not meet the required standards, people would have to demolish the structure or get other orders to ensure they conform to the requisite standard.

At present residents, pay monthly rates of US$8 to the Maphisa Rural District Council, a figure they dismissed as unjustified citing poor service delivery.

“People dump waste anywhere they deem fit. Normally it is right on the side of the canal that runs next to the Mafuyana area. The same canal where people fetch water from when piped water is not available due to pumping issues or for those that are currently not connected to the Zinnia line,” Ndlovu says.

‘‘It is a serious health hazard. You find all sort of trash along the canal from used condoms to disposable napkins.”

The canal runs from Antelope Dam to Arda Maphisa Plantation. The section has no electricity and sewer reticulation system, forcing residents to use septic tanks that are fast filling up.

According to Ndlovu, residents have tried numerous times to approach the council at all levels from individual and group petitions and through the Residents Interim Committee. All the attempts have not yielded anything.

COVID-19 restrictions have made it difficult to file complaints.

“A lot of pressure was being exerted on council officials before lockdown. However, all public meetings have since been cancelled, and the council is now hiding behind this,” Tshabalala notes.

However, Elvis Sibanda, Maphisa RDC chief executive officer, says there is no need for panic over the delayed issuance of title deeds.

‘‘It is true that the houses don’t have title deeds for now. They were built using what is called a pegging title.”

“What is important is that as council this year we budgeted for a land survey process that leads to getting title deeds. There is no need for panic,” Sibanda says adding residents should take comfort that they have leases which are legal documents.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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