Tuesday, 25 January 2022


 All houses and developments around the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport area, including Arlington Estate and Retreat suburb face demolition, with Government approaching the courts for a demolition order, citing dangers of having settlements in the area and their effects on the operations of the airport.

Harare Metropolitan Province Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Mr Tafadzwa Muguti, has said developments in the Arlington and Retreat areas should never have been allowed to happen, according to the Civil Aviation Act and the Airports Company of Zimbabwe Act.

He said all the houses around those areas had fallen into the red zone and should be demolished.

“As it is, the bulk of Retreat developments which have happened between February last year and today, you can see them from Seke Road, are all in the red zone meaning that anything can happen. 

“They are prone to disaster. We are approaching all courts and following all laws. All the houses, which are sitting within the red zone are going to be demolished, all of them. The law is the law.”

Mr Muguti also said developments in Arlington B had also fallen into the restricted area of the airport and the developers had since been instructed to stop.

“The Arlington development, in the first place, was not supposed to be in that zone. So, the further expansion of Arlington is a risk to the operations of the airport in its entirety. All the houses, all the developments in the Retreat airport area are going to be demolished,” he said.

Most of the homeowners in the area bought their land from private developers and land barons, some of whom did not regularise the stands with the Harare City council. Some of the stands have been pegged along river banks.

Mr Muguti advised residents that there was no land available in the airport zone.

“People also have to understand that if you buy land from an individual and not the Government, at any point, in the Urban Councils Act and the Original Town and Country Planning Act, the Government or the local authority can come in and declare that place to be a road, rail or anything else,” he said.

Government has said that all developments in the airport zone have to be specifically aligned to functions of an airport, which is why it has not been keen on people occupying those areas.

The houses in the Retreat area have actually taken over the rail servitude for the proposed Harare-Chitungwiza railway line, whose plans had always been there.

Harare Residents’ Trust director, Mr Precious Shumba, said the Government and Harare City Council should have acted on these settlements a long time ago before they had gotten out of hand.

“The authorities should have ensured compliance to the Original Town and Country Act. We have had these land developers and land barons who were involved in developments that are not in line with the Act for years. These illegal settlements have taken place while authorities were watching. For a long time, Hatfield residents raised concern about these settlements but nothing was done,” he said.

 Mr Shumba said it was unfortunate that the decision to demolish all developments around the area was coming after people had invested a lot and built their homes.

“Government now needs to exercise its authority in this instance because the land around airports is considered to be a national security issue. Government should not beat about the bush, they must stop these developments and protect State land,” he said.

Local urban planner, Dr Percy Toriro, said the issue of settlements around airports was sensitive and it was international best practice to leave land around airports free of human settlements.

 “Airports are very sensitive areas. There is the issue of safety; in the event of an aircraft accident, there are likely to be fatalities. So this is why areas around airports need to be carefully planned. This development is in conformity with what is generally acceptable as airport development conditions.

“If anything, we are only adopting international best practices in airport development. This is what we should have done long ago because airports are delicate,” said Dr Toriro.

Research has shown that globally, although settlements around airports have been growing, there are dangers associated with such developments.

A report done by Rashid Abdullah titled, “Urban planning and Airports: Land use compatibility for optimal development of Malindi Airport”, shows that although aircraft accidents are rare, there was a need to take into account safety issues in the likely event that it happened.

Other negative impacts include exposure to noise produced by aircraft, which is incompatible with having residential areas close to airports.

Air quality in the vicinity of airports can also be affected by aircraft engine emissions, emissions from airport motor vehicles and access traffic, and emissions from other sources.

As is the case of Arlington area, there are also socio-economic impacts which will result due to the disruption of the already established communities that will be evicted from the airport land.

All the land around the airport has been declared reserved for airport expansion and plans are in place to build a second runway for the expanded Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport. Herald


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