PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s move to give title deeds to Epworth residents has sparked debate, with opposition parties describing his action as a vote-buying strategy by the ruling Zanu PF to boost its waning support in urban areas.
Mnangagwa on Saturday handed over securitised title deeds to 265 Epworth residents and pledged to avail more.
At least 11 000 residents from the sprawling suburb are expected to receive the title deeds.
Ahead of the March by-elections last year, Zanu PF promised to dish out 80 000 title deeds to residents of Epworth to guarantee property ownership.
While handing over the title deeds, given under the Presidential Title Deeds and Settlement Regularisation Programme, Mnangagwa pleaded with Epworth residents to vote for Zanu PF.
“We are a government that delivers. Today I have returned to Epworth to deliver on that promise,” he said.
But electoral stakeholders have accused Mnangagwa of using State resources to lure votes for the ruling party.
Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere yesterday said Zanu PF was using State land as a political weapon to win the electorate.
“Zanu PF knows it can never win a free and fair election in Zimbabwe. Consequently, it has resorted to shameful, illegal electoral malpractices to compensate for its lack of popular support.
“The donation of title deeds to residents in Epworth by Mr Mnangagwa is a desperate attempt at vote buying by an incompetent regime that’s failed to deliver basic services such as access to housing, public health, education and food security.
“There are grave questions around whether due process was followed in the purported donation of title deeds, whether there are valid transactions underlying the alleged transfer process and most importantly whether the allocation process itself was transparent given that these are State resources,” she said.
Mahere further pointed out that State land was not a political weapon to be brandished at election time by a regime that has failed to deliver basic services.
“Significantly, only 300 deeds were given, yet the population of Epworth exceeds 60 000. We continue to ask — what plan has the government put in place to ensure the residents of Epworth and indeed the masses have access to quality, affordable housing?”
MDC T Gweru Urban legislator Brian Dube questioned why Mnangagwa was issuing the deeds.
“Since when did the President start giving title deeds? The deeds are processed at the Deeds Office, and an individual has to follow certain procedures to get one. But here, the President is bringing the deeds to the people. At whose expense?”asked Dube.
“This is a clear vote-buying strategy. The timing also raises a lot of questions. Why now when we are just a few months before the elections. This issue jeopardises the credibility of the electoral process. Already the ground is no longer (even).”
Lawyer Munyaradzi Bwanya, however, said there was nothing sinister about Mnangagwa handing over the title deeds to the people.
“The government owns the Epworth land. The rights of the land are vested in the President,” Bwanya said. “He can administer that land through a minister and the council can give you a lease, but the owner of the land you are buying is the government,” he argued.
He said anyone who sold land should have authority to transfer it.
“Land that belongs to the government is vested through the President. The land can be given through the deed of grant whereby one is granted authority to use the land.
“There is nothing sinister in handing over title deeds. For the last 20 years, civil society organisations and opposition parties have been clamouring for the government to issue title deeds.
“It confirms that the government has the power to issue title deeds. They cannot backtrack now to say why the title deeds were given,” he said.
Political analyst and founder of Coalition for Market and Liberal Solutions (Comaliso) Rejoice Ngwenya said every citizen was expected to get the title deeds regardless of political affiliation.
“For my team and I at Comaliso, we have always insisted that title deeds are not an electoral campaign matter — for good reasons,” Ngwenya said.
“Citizens who reside in such places as Epworth, Eastview, Solomio, Hopley, Garikai, Maruva and others in Kuwadzana and Highfield, among others are members of different political parties.
“Of course, some informal settlements could have been a result of Zanu PF aligned land barons, but this counts for nothing when a poor citizen has already been allocated a stand and built a house.”
Ngwenya added: “So, when a political party says: ‘If you vote for us, we will give you title deeds’, we get concerned because we know the process of titling is highly legalistic and procedural. That is why Comaliso went to Parliament to ‘complain’ about this difficult process that endangers the tenure of millions of citizens.”
However, Zanu PF director for information Tafdzwa Mugwadi said Zanu PF was not bothered by criticism in relation to the Epworth title deeds.
“When the promise was made last year, the opposition said it was a lie,” Mugwadi said. “When the promise was delivered last weekend, they condemned it as vote buying. The question is: Should Zanu PF and President @edmnangagwa be bothered by that? The answer is an emphatic NO & delivery continues.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa also told this publication recently that the ruling party was dishing out bicycles to the rural electorate to win its votes in the upcoming elections.