ZANU PF and MDC-T councillors have set themselves on a warpath with their Citizens’ Coalition for Change counterparts after conniving to block CCC councillors from sitting on committees while facilitating the sale of Warren Hills and Sherwood golf clubs through an arrangement described as dubious.
MOSES MATENGA/NYASHA CHINGONO
The NewsHawks gathered that a meeting of the Environmental Management Committee (EMC) was set for Thursday to deliberate and endorse the resolution to sell the two golf clubs to individuals, but sources at Town House said the meeting was stopped.
Investigations showed that more than 63 suspicious items, mainly to do with land sales, were set to be tabled for discussion before the committee and this was to be done while CCC councillors remain excluded from committees at the instigation of Local Government minister July Moyo.
Town House sources confirmed the meeting was blocked. However, acting mayor Enock Mupamaonde tried to be diplomatic, saying “the meeting was postponed.”
The leaked agenda of the meeting showed that council was set to discuss the Sherwood and Warren Hills golf clubs.
“…change of reservation of portions of stands 8112, 8113, 8118 Warren Park township and 812 Mabelreign township from open space and recreation (golf course) to mixed use development (residential, commercial and community facilities (Kirkman Road), Harare Drive, Richwell Avenue and Sherwood Drive Harare.”
A 29 March 2022 report indicated the need for council to support the proposed change of reservation.
CCC councillors have vowed to block the move to sell Sherwood and Warren Hills golf courses, saying it was a scandalous escapade by land barons.
“As a local councillor, l have an obligation to block and protect illegal developments in various recreational facilities,” Ward 16 councillor Denford Ngadziore said.
“These recreation facilities include the two golf courses in my ward, namely Warren Hills and Sherwood, and I suspect the change of use is being pushed by politically connected land barons.”
“All 23 councillors elected in the March by-elections are yet to be included in various committees of council. We were not aware of the EMC meeting and we are yet to see the said minutes except what we are seeing on various social media platforms,” he said.
“Citizens’ councillors will protect the two golf courses from any illegal developments. We hear between 2021 and 2022 over 30 hectares of greenways and open spaces around Mabelreign have been planned for residential stands.”
CCC spokesperson Fadzai Mahere said the move was done without consultation and described it as a danger to the environment.
“The City of Harare is about to turn Sherwood Golf Course and Warren Hills Golf Course into residential stands. There has been little consultation with the affected communities and no consideration given to the environmental damage that is likely to take place. Part of the affected areas are on wetlands,” Mahere said.
“The EMC committee handling the deal is composed of Zanu PF and MDC-T councillors who are working in collusion with city staff.”
Both golf courses sit on wetlands, and conservationists warn that these vital landscapes are endangered by ill-planned housing projects.
In 2020, Ngadziore reported to the police an attempt to turn the Sherwood Golf Course into residential stands.
Harare has been losing wetlands which according to environmentalists are crucial for the ecosystem, particularly as a reservoir of water.
Wetlands are natural water reservoirs. They are used to recharge the water table, filter and purify water and prevent soil erosion.
Zimbabwe currently has seven sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 453 828 hectares.
In a report by the Harare Wetlands Trust, about 17 wetland housing developments are happening in the city without due procedure. The report also shows that environmental impact assessments (EIA) have not been made available, making the structures illegal.
“Permits continue to be issued to allow for development on wetlands, including on Ramsar Sites. The Ramsar Convention, though binding on the state, is yet to be domesticated into Zimbabwean law. The state has not made use of the legislation to acquire or gazette wetlands, to establish nature reserves and prohibit development on them, which would do away with the issuance of permits such as EIA certificates and wetlands utilisation certificates, which are legitimising the loss of the wetlands,” reads the report.
Zimbabwe is a state party to international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and, most importantly, the 1971 Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention) in terms of which the state has designated seven wetlands as wetlands of international importance.
The Ramsar Convention requires the establishment of nature reserves on wetlands, wise use of wetlands and conservation of preserved sites.