Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday visited residents of Ruwa, on the outskirts of Harare, who had their residential properties and tuckshops demolished in a ‘clean up’ campaign by the Zanu PF government.
Tsvangirai assessed over 200 tuck shops that were destroyed in Runyararo, Zimre and Damofalls all of which are in Ruwa. The demolitions were also extended to Chitungwiza before the Harare phase was halted owing to growing public anger.
“It was callous and overzealous. A lot of people are dependent on these shops not only for service but for income and it was very inhumane for Zanu PF to destroy the shops,” Tsvangirai said after the tour.
The MDC leader was invited by the MDC-led Ruwa Town Council chairperson, Phinieas Mushayavanhu to witness for himself the untold suffering that had befallen the residents of Ruwa after the Zanu PF demolitions.
“It is vindictive and there is no rationale for Zanu PF to demolish the people’s properties and worse it brought back the realities of 2005 Murambatsvina,” he said adding that the Zanu PF government must immediately stop the demolitions.
“It should be sensitive and must have a conscience in view of the suffering that the people are facing”.
He said despite Zanu PF’s insensitivity, he was happy that the Ruwa Town Council was working on easing the lives of Ruwa residents by constructing corner shops and ensuring that informal and formal traders co-exist.
The Ruwa Town Council chairperson said the decision to demolish the properties was mooted by Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo who ordered his ministry and the Epworth/Ruwa Board officials to demolish the properties, a move which affected the lives of hundreds of families.
Chombo’s directive he said was in clear violations of Section 74 of the new Constitution, which states that; “No person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished without order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances”.
Last week Harare Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi announced a deal that would give residents two months to negotiate a deal with Council that would regularize illegal structures before demolitions begin.
“We are not demolishing the structures tomorrow (Tuesday last week) as some media reports have said. Rather, within the next weeks leading into next year residents can come to council to ascertain the way forward,” Mahachi said.
The Zanu PF MP for Mbare Tendai Savanhu sought to milk propaganda value from the U-turn by claiming Zanu PF could never order the demolition of people’s houses because their party is for development and welfare of the masses.
“You voted for Zanu-PF because you know it is the only party that has people’s welfare at heart, we are there to solve and not create problems,” Savanhu said.
“Zanu-PF ministers in Government should not be complacent in their offices because they are surrounded by many opposition party members who may have strategies to reverse people’s gains,” he said.
“Government will have to provide alternative accommodation for the people before it can effect any demolitions. After all, my ministry still has enough land to build alternative accommodation for the people. We will provide that land if the need arises. It is unconstitutional to destroy people’s houses,” he added.
But Savanhu, the new Deputy Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement conveniently forgot to mention that it was Zanu PF who ordered ‘Operation Murambatsvina’ in 2005. So-called ‘illegal’ houses and market stalls were destroyed.
According to United Nations estimates nearly a million people were displaced as the operation destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in a country bedevilled by high unemployment.
In 2005, Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the UN Special Envoy on Human Settlement Issues after the infamous Operation Murambatsvina said:
“Operation Restore Order, while purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures and to clamp down on alleged illicit activities, was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering, and, in repeated cases, with disregard to several provisions of national and international legal frameworks.
“Immediate measures need to be taken to bring those responsible to account, and for reparations to be made to those who have lost property and livelihoods….” read part of Tibaijuka’s report.
It appears no one in the Mugabe regime read it.