Municipal authorities in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare have been obliged to relocate a housing rehabilitation project funded by the Bill Gates foundation away from the high density suburb of Mbare in the face of demands by the Chipangano youth gang.
Officials said the project had to be shifted to Dzivarasekwa, another Harare suburb, to avoid losing a US$5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The project was intended to rehabilitate the Matapi Flats in Mbare to provide new housing for the poor in the suburb.
Council sources said Chipangano, known for violence and extortion, demanded a 51 percent stake in the new housing as if the project fell under the Indigenization Law intended to give black Zimbabweans a stake in foreign-owned companies.
The Chipangano group has also been linked to the take-over of other city properties including the Mbare Carter House, alleged to have been made into a Chipangano base. The city council has said it will not seek to reassert control of the property.
Chipangano members have set up in Mbare Musika and other bus terminuses around the capital, collecting fees from commuter bus operators and others.
Combined Harare Residents Association Chief Mfundo Mlilo told Tatenda Gumbo that the council’s concession to the Chipangano gang confirms the rule of law has broken down.
Youth Agenda Trust Programs Officer Lawrence Mashungu said the Chipangano group has taken over large sections of Harare, and routinely assaults anyone perceived to be a member of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The group is alleged to have close ties to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.