The Sunday News
Senior Municipal Reporter
BULAWAYO residents have accused the local authority of double standards after its recent warning it will destroy, without compensation, crops grown in unauthorised places.
In a statement released last week, Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube said the practice is against the Protection of Lands and Natural Resources By-Laws Section 13 (1).
He said the piece of legislation states that no one is allowed to cultivate within 30 metres of the verge of any spring vleis, sponge, marsh, swamp or reed bed or within 30 metres of a high flood level of any body, artificially conserved water or within 10 metres along a road verge.
Residents have, however, taken a swipe at the local authority saying council should consider that the country was coming out of a drought year hence should show a bit of leniency.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) coordinator, Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu said it was shocking that while council expected residents to understand when they were failing to supply them with reliable water supplies, they did not want to show a little leniency on the illegal cultivation.
He said most residents were practicing the move not out of ignorance but because of the need to avert hunger.
“This is honestly the time council should be showing its human side because it is everyone’s knowledge that we are coming from a drought year and further most of the workforce has been affected by the lockdown as some were rendered jobless hence, they rely on urban agriculture.
“Council should remember that residents have no choice but to be understanding when the local authority is failing to supply water on a daily basis, they now should also understand that residents are also reliant on this urban agriculture besides it is inhumane for them to slash the maize today knowing very well that it is due to be harvested next month,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Bulawayo United Residents Association (BURA) chairperson, Mr Winos Dube said what boggled the mind is that council was failing to cut grass on the side of the roads, which was creating blind spots which were subsequently leading to accidents.
“As residents we fully appreciate that what is happening is illegal but the truth of the matter is that people are being pushed to do this cultivation out of desperation, people are suffering, there is no water, no food and this Covid-19 pandemic is further worsening their plight.
“During these hard times I believe council should exhibit the spirit of ubuntu and turn a blind eye because honestly even in front of God if they go ahead with their slashing this will not have any blessings at all,” said Mr Dube.
Contacted for comment, the city’s Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni said the local authority was in a catch 22 situation. He said while they fully understood the plight of residents, council should also strive to balance their mandate of protecting the city’s lands and environment.
“In most cases these crops grown on undesignated places tend to be not only an environmental hazard; but also, a security threat to the unsuspecting residents who are either raped or robbed in broad daylight.
“We equally have complaints from other residents over such malpractices and as a planning authority we cannot be seen to be abdicating our responsibilities to instill a culture of orderliness in our people,” said Clr Mguni.
He, however, conceded that their notice had been flighted late as some of the crop was nearing harvesting period.
“Perhaps, in future our notices must come earlier before the onset of the rainy season. Our residents’ associations must be in a position to assist the city in policing and containment of this malpractice of stream bank cultivation because in most cases it has led to flooding in lower areas. It is our collective duty to warn each other of the dangers of unsanctioned urban agriculture,” said the Mayor.