By A Correspondent- The rapid expansion of Mutare into nearby rural communities has not only disrupted communal life but also created instant wealth for villagers as owners are selling huge tracts of land for urban residential development with the blessings of rural district councils.
Families that have big plots in Dora and Zimunya areas are earning more as private land developers stampede to have their signatures and acquire land for resale to prospective home-seekers.
However, while a few are pocketing thousands of dollars, the bulk of the villagers who have small pieces of land are feeling the brunt of this growth because their source of livelihood which was hinged on crop farming and animal husbandry has been badly affected.
Houses have been built on pastures while maize fields are now shopping malls.
Demand for land is high in the eastern border city and the housing waiting list has since surpassed the 100 000 mark.
With the new master plan yet to be approved by Government which will enable the city to expand towards Riverside, Arda Transau, Penhalonga and Zimunya, Mutare has run out of land.
This has prompted private land developers to buy land from villagers through rural district councils and develop them for resale to the urban folk who desperately want land nearby.
On average a stand covering 300 square metres is being sold for anything above US$8 000 or the equivalent using the interbank rate.
Mutare Town Clerk Mr Joshua Maligwa said the city was expanding quickly and land owners in adjacent rural communities were realizing huge profits.
He said council was not actively involved in the current expansion drive because the city’s master plan which is meant to guide on how the local authority would develop towards the villages is yet to be approved.
“What is happening at the moment is that private land developers are buying land from farm owners and villagers through rural district councils and develop the same in accordance with urban council standards,” he said.
“We have some developers who are seeking the technical expertise of Mutare City Council in designing the new settlements but we have some who are doing things their way which is usually divorced from our expectations. Since the city is growing in the direction they are building these settlements it means that the new locations will be swallowed into our plans in the near future so everything must be done through us.
“If the new settlements are built contrary to the expectations of the urban local authority it will be difficult for Mutare City to incorporate them as they are because they will be failing in terms of standards. When the master plan gets approval, council will acquire land and expand. Some of the land is State land while some belong to private owners,” he said.
A communal farmer from Dora Dombo Mrs Kutenda, who declined to give her first name, said her life has been badly affected by the expanding urban settlements.
“I have since sold most of my livestock because I don’t have anywhere to take them for grazing. We used to do farming here at Manyandure Farm but as you can see there are houses all over. My plot is too small. I can’t sell it. Life has become expensive for me because our new urban neighbours are competing with us to buy everything here.
“Prices of livestock even chickens have gone up because our new neighbours are offering more. What is left for us is to look for jobs and compete with these people. We are no longer villagers. If we don’t change and match the new set up our lives will be unbearable here,” she said.
Deforestation is rampant as the new stand owners cut down trees for firewood, creating an ecosystem imbalance that had been kept in check for years by villagers.
Some of the villagers are subdividing their pieces of land to urban dwellers looking for space to do poultry, piggery and green house projects.