Monday, 29 March 2021

TITLE TO LAND OR NO HOUSES FOR CYCLONE VICTIMS ; ECONET TELLS GOVT

A LAND ownership wrangle between government and mobile operator Econet Wireless has stalled progress in the construction of houses for Cyclone Idai victims in Chimanimani, two years after tragedy struck.

This was revealed in a report presented before the National Assembly on Thursday by the joint Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Local Government and the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security on progress made in construction of COVID-19 centres in areas affected by floods.

Parliament also noted that government had not yet started the rehabilitation of infrastructure in areas mostly affected by Cyclone Idai, which include Chimanimani, Bikita and Tsholotsho.

“The committee was informed during its first fact-finding visit to Chimanimani District in July 2019 that Econet Wireless had pledged to build houses for the survivors of Cyclone Idai. Upon enquiry on the progress made in that regard, the committee was notified that there was a disagreement between Econet and government pertaining to the ownership of the land,” read the report.

“The district development co-ordinator informed the committee that Econet Wireless wanted title to the land on which the houses would be built, but government was against the idea. Giving title of the land to Econet Wireless implied that government was ceding ownership and control of the land as well as the project to Econet Wireless. Resultantly, due to that impasse, the project had stalled.”

According to the World Food Programme, at least 185 people died and 270 000 were left in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

“The committee gathered from the survivors that, indeed, they were living in conditions of severe food insecurity and this situation was exacerbated by the alleged rampant corruption in the selection of beneficiaries and the distribution of food aid,” the report read.

MPs also said there were reports that government had stopped efforts by the local authorities in Chimanimani to rehabilitate infrastructure in some affected areas for undisclosed reasons. Newsday

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