The Sunday News
Ngqwele Dube and Sithatshisiwe Vuma, Sunday News Reporters
SCORES of Bulawayo residents besieged the Nketa Housing office on Wednesday morning as they sought answers over failure by the Bulawayo City Council to deliver housing stands paid for over four years ago.
The residents, who numbered about 20, gave council officials a torrid time as they demanded to be given their stands, located in Emganwini and Tshabalala. Council had initially promised to handover the stands in 2018. However, the contractor, Tzircalle Brothers, moved from the site without completing the construction of roads, water and sewer reticulation works following a dispute with BCC.
The residents said they have been patient for long and had no option but to storm council offices to seek redress on the matter. Over 400 stand owners were affected by the delay despite having fully paid for the stands with amounts ranging between US$7000 and US$8000 for on average 400 square metre- stands. One of the affected residents, Ms Sichumile Sibanda said they had been patient enough while council was dillydallying.
“We can’t continue being told stories because we paid everything in full in United States dollars and what we want is to start developing our stands. We are paying rentals in forex where we stay, instead we could be using that money to develop our own stands,” said Ms Sibanda.
Tzircalle Brothers reportedly insisted on being paid in United States dollars while BCC wanted to pay them in local currency resulting in the dispute. Council officials last year declined commenting on the dispute saying it was under arbitration.
Mr Bigboy Ndlovu, a representative of the stand owners, said they felt the arbitration was taking forever to be completed.
In a letter dated 25 April 2021, addressed to the stand owners’ lawyers, Dube and Associates, council legal representatives, Coghlan and Welsh said the Arbitration process had been delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown.
“We had the Pre-Arbitration meeting on the 8th of April 2021 where we agreed on all these issues and the timelines which will culminate in the Arbitral Award. In other words, the Arbitral Process has now started in earnest,” read part of the letter.
In a leaked recording of the meeting between the stand owners and Nketa Housing office officials, one of the residents is heard bemoaning the fact that some of the stand owners had passed away and their families might have difficulties possessing the stands and even developing them. They decried the fact that council had not been communicating with them on the developments.
The council officials at Nketa Housing Office, a Mr Ncube and Mrs Mguni, had a hard time trying to calm down the stand owners as they sought assurance of when they will get official communication on when they will get their stands.
While stand owners requested moving in as 90 percent of the work had been done, council lawyers, Coghlan and Welsh, however, said it was not possible, in a letter, dated 28 August 2020.
“There would be prejudice. Amongst other things: a) The completed earthworks which were ready for surfacing will be damaged by the beneficiaries’ vehicles transporting construction material for their structures such as river/ pit sand, bricks, cements etc.
“Over and above that, it is unworkable to complete the surfacing of the roads when the stands have already been occupied. Some of the activities such as prime coat do require the roads to be closed for seven days before the second coat is applied (i.e. tack and seal costs). There would be challenges in people wanting to access their properties during that period and yet, for proper road works to be done, they cannot do so,” reads part of the letter.