Epworth title deed scheme Zanu PF vote-buying stunt
THE regularisation of Epworth settlements after President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week started distributing so-called title deeds has come under the spotlight as it has since emerged that the documents may not have legal standing but were just a vote-buying tactic by the ruling Zanu PF.
265 residents in the sprawling surbub received what the ruling party said were title deeds for their homes, most of which are underdeveloped and built on illegally acquired land in the poor Harare south-east peri-urban settlement.
About 11 000 more residents are on line to receiving the controversial title deeds.
A title deed is a formal document legally defining how a property is allotted by an authority, owned and transferred by the holder.
Legal property analysts told The NewsHawks that Mnangagwa’s “title deeds”, which are part of his election campaign, are not legally sound and binding.
The key stages and procedure on the issuing of title deeds on council land are articulated in Deeds Registries Act Chapter 20:05 (revised edition 1996) and Urban Council Act, section 152.
The critical stages that need to be followed in issuing title deeds — which were not followed in the case of the Epworth documents presented to residents by Mnangagwa — include an approved layout plan; approved survey diagrammes; proof of payment/purchase price of residential stand and certificate of compliance with development conditions on water, sewer, roads to some stage and superstructure.
Before the issuance of a title deed, the responsible local authority, in this case the Epworth Local Board, through legal sections, initiates conveyance registration of the title deeds.
At another stage, external lawyers are appointed by the local authority to prepare title deeds and register them at the Deeds Office.
“In short, no title deeds can be issued at a political gathering without following the appropriate proper legal procedure. The Epworth residents were therefore sold a dummy by Mnangagwa and Zanu PF whose sole agenda at that event was simply to campaign ahead of the next elections,” a legal property analyst said.
A land audit report presented to Mnangagwa in 2019 by Justice Tendai Uchena exposed how ruling party elites used land to bait voters and last week’s event in
Epworth brazenly confirmed the vote-buying tactic.
The Epworth event also confirmed long-held views that Zanu PF’s penchant for regularisation of illegal settlements is mostly linked to ruling party-aligned co-operatives in a bid to harvest votes.
During the ceremony to hand over the documents to the Epworth residents, Mnangagwa repeatedly reminded the mostly rented crowd that it was a project masterminded by Zanu PF.
Zanu PF has of late resorted to its traditional vote-buying tactics ahead of the next elections, with the latest move being the pampering of traditional chiefs with all-terrain vehicles in a development that sets on course rigging mechanisms of the next elections.
Last month, Mnangagwa handed over new cars to 38 newly installed chiefs during an annual chiefs’ conference held in Bulawayo.
Critics told The NewsHawks that handing over the cars to chiefs four months before elections was a clear sign of vote buying.
“It’s a case of outright vote buying. The timing of the meeting with the traditional leaders when facing the 2023 election is more telling about the hidden agenda of Zanu PF. Traditional leaders are being abused by Zanu PF for political gain. This is prohibited by our constitution but continues with impunity,” said, Obert Chinhamo, director of the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa.
Two months ago, Zanu PF handed over ambulances emblazoned with big portraits of Mnangagwa, saying the vehicles were donated by party supporters. This, again, was seen as vote buying.
Zanu PF officials have also been on the campaign trail, dolling out more goodies and cash ahead of the party’s primary elections.
There has also been distribution of chickens, fertilisers and drilling of boreholes by Zanu PF functionaries in further vote-buying tactics.
The government has also been distributing inputs and food in rural areas in a partisan manner.
The current developments are an attestation of what Mnangagwa in August last year said when he unwittingly admitted that Zanu PF uses food aid as a political tool to drum up support in rural areas.
He made the remarks while addressing congregants at Johane Masowe Vadzidzi VaJesu shrine in Madziva, Mashonaland Central province.
Mnangagwa revealed that the ruling party structures would play a leading role in distributing food aid and agricultural inputs as the country heads to the 2023 elections.
“I have been to many districts in the country and most households are facing hunger. The ruling party is in every village, so people who are starving should forward their names to Zanu PF village committees so that they can be assisted with food aid. We want everyone to be Zanu PF,” he said.
“I have been to Mangwe, Plumtree, where we donated solar-powered boreholes and helped people to start horticulture. When you go there and say Mnangagwa is bad, they will beat you up.”
According to the constitution, central government is mandated to take a leading role in food aid distribution, but Zanu PF has been using food aid to harvest votes.
About 38% of the rural population, which translates to about 3.8 million people, will face hunger this year, according to government statistics.
A recent report by the Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition, and other concerned civil society organisations raised grave concerns against acts of vote buying in the country which it described as electoral corruption.
“Our understanding of electoral corruption is that it is the manipulation, abuse or illegal interference with a conducive electoral environment, legal and policy frameworks, management modalities, voters, processes, the voting, outcomes and other related activities around the electoral cycle by state and non-state actors to give advantages to one political player over others,” the report reads.
“We are concerned that electoral corruption is rampant, appears as if it is normal and that it has flourished with impunity.
“We are gravely concerned that acts of electoral corruption have deleterious effects on development since it leads to conflicts and controversial electoral outcomes. Apart from destroying economies and societies, it subverts and undermines the principle of free choice, thereby rendering an election open to contestation.
“In addition, electoral corruption jeopardises the freeness and fairness of elections, triggers physical fights, killings, and human rights abuses as witnessed in Kenya and Zimbabwe. It is also important to note that it leads to apathy triggered by the understanding that participating in elections that are often rigged is useless since that will not bring out changes expected by a voter,” reads part of the report.