The decision by Chitungwiza Municipality, a dormitory town 30 kilometres south of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, to transfer ownership of rented properties to long time sitting tenants has received mixed reactions.
Tenants are up in arms with the municipality demanding title deeds to the houses which they say they have paid for in full. There is however divided opinion, with some residents associations hailing council’s decision, while others feel council is evading the issue of title deeds.
The local authority recently invited people who have been living in council houses dotted across the town since 1970, to regularise their home ownership.
Chitungwiza Municipality Communications Officer, Lovemore Meya, told ZTN news that the tenants were struggling to convert their houses to home ownership, but council was now expediting the process.
“It was a 25-year agreement whereby those people who were renting were supposed to come forward so that we can process their papers. At the moment we are not paying too much attention to whether or not they owe the council money, we just want to get their ownership status confirmed,” Meya said.
But the title deeds issue remains contentious.
“We cannot process deeds for residents, what we can do is give them the requisite paperwork that will then allow them to go to the relevant authorities and get title deeds,” Meya said.
But the tenants are not amused, they say the municipality is being dishonest.
Mr Tinos Dube (71) who has been staying in one of the houses since August 1975 said the local authority should not act like it is doing residents a favour.
“We finished paying for these houses in 2009 as per contract but the municipality is still demanding instalments to date. They owe us money, they are supposed to use that money to process title deeds for us,” he said.
Another tenant, Ms Mercy Zuze (70) said she has been on her property since 1969.
“We paid a long time ago, last week we demonstrated against them and gave them a six-day ultimatum to give us title deeds. They are not being honest, we want title deeds,” Ms Zuze said.
Residents associations are split on the decision by the municipality.
Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association (CAMERA) director Marvellous Khumalo said the transfer was long overdue.
“As CAMERA we welcome this as a good development because we were on the forefront making noise concerning this issue where we were saying council should transfer ownership”.
“We are still engaging Chitungwiza Municipality to find out why they made it 49 years instead of 25 years before transferring ownership,” Khumalo said.
Chitungwiza Residents Trust director, Alice Kuvheya said they were mobilising their members to take part in the process.
Co-ordinator for the Zimbabwe Old People`s Association which represents old tenants in the town, Paddington Chaparadza accused the municipality of being deceptive.
“Our members finished paying council a long time ago, if anything the municipality owes them money. The municipality should use the money they owe tenants to arrange title deeds,” Chaparadza said.