By Abigail Mawonde
HARARE – Thousands of people in the capital will soon be homeless as Harare City Council has embarked on a massive demolition of illegal structures in 19 undesignated settlements that have been identified.
Council officials claim the demolitions are meant to bring sanity as some structures were being erected without approval from the responsible city departments.
Owners of the demolished structures will foot labour and other costs incurred in pulling down their illegal houses.
The city’s principal communications officer Mr Michael Chideme yesterday confirmed the development, saying at least 19 illegal settlements dotted around Harare would be razed down.
“We have identified all the areas with illegal structures in Harare and we have informed all the people who are on these areas that they should pull down their structures, failure of which council will do it for them,” he said.
“Council is also going to ensure that people whose houses they demolish meet the necessary labour costs involved given that they have been defying a lawful order.”
The city demolished 25 illegal houses in Warren Park and Westlea yesterday, leaving several families homeless.
The houses were built on land belonging to the City of Harare, which had been invaded by Final Hope Co-operative, Josiah Housing Co-operative and Makomborero Housing Co-operative.
Mr Chideme said the occupants proceeded to build houses even after being warned against doing so.
He said council recently gave the illegal settlers 48 hours to pull down their structures and when they realised their orders had been defied, council officers visited them onsite and verbally informed them to demolish their houses.
He said the occupiers still defied the order, hence the council decision “to assist them to pull down the structures today (yesterday)”.
Of the demolished houses, one had reached roof level and had been tiled, two other houses were at roof level and the rest of the houses were at different stages of construction.
Last week council flattened 11 houses built on undesignated land in Glen Norah, belonging to a bogus housing co-operative.
The houses were at various stages of construction and had been built along Makonye and Kunzekweguta Roads.
Mr Chideme said notices had been sent out to the illegal settlers beforehand ordering them to demolish their homes but they ignored the order prompting council to take action.
He urged home seekers to desist from buying land from individuals or co-operatives without consulting the council for vetting and approval.
Mr Chideme said the demolition was ongoing.
“We are saying that if we allow this to continue, we are breeding a disorderly city so we want order in Harare and we will make sure we have an orderly settlement that adheres to our world class city status by year 2025,” he said.
In 2005 a countrywide cleanup, code named Operation Murambatsvina, left hundreds of thousands of people homeless after “illegal” structures were demolished by soldiers and police on the orders of the ruling ZANU-PF government.
The demolitions were widely seen by analysts as the punishment of city-dwellers for giving their overwhelming support to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).