By Tererai Karimakwenda
Residents in Zimbabwe’s capital were on Monday bracing for a government ordered demolition of tuck shops and “unplanned houses”, deemed illegal by the Ministry of Local Government, which are due to begin Tuesday.
The Harare Council warned residents in high-density areas to remove their valuables before its team demolishes illegal structures in areas including Budiriro, Kuwadzana, Mbare and Dzivaresekwa.
There were mixed messages from officials as Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, who ordered the demolitions, insisted government would destroy all illegal structures. But his deputy Joel Biggie Matiza told a meeting last week they were only after structures built on wetlands, sewer mains and electric cables.
Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi told the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper that all illegal tuck shops and unplanned houses would be torn down as they were “causing chaos” in the city.
The demolitions are due to go ahead Tuesday despite condemnation from the Crisis Coalition, Heal Zimbabwe Trust, Chitungwiza Residents Trust, Combined Harare Residents Association and the Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
The lawyers group last week gave the local government ministry a 72-hour ultimatum to put measures in place that would protect families and individuals who would be affected by the demolitions.
In a letter addressed to Minister Chombo, the lawyers warned government to respect the right to shelter of every individual, as guaranteed by the new Constitution, and make alternative plans for those about to be evicted.
As of Monday there had been no response from Chombo or the Ministry, according to Kumbirai Mafunda, communications officer for the lawyers. He said lawyers had been to Ruwa and Damofalls, where the demolitions began last Wednesday, gathering evidence that can be used if legal action is pursued.
Mafunda said: “The lawyers were furnished with materials that should help them once our clients give the green light to proceed with litigation against these defiant authorities. We are considering several approaches because this is also a matter of public interest.”
ZANU PF officials allocated plots of land illegally ahead of the July 31st election, in order to boost political support. With the election now over, the beneficiaries are now being labeled “illegal” and their homes and tuck shops demolished.
The MDC-T has also condemned the demolitions, and some ZANU PF officials have reportedly expressed their concern that beneficiaries would turn against the party if they lost their homes and livelihoods.
The state run Herald newspaper said Chombo has appointed a task team, led by his deputy Joel Matiza, to investigate the illegal allocation of land by officials in the Manyame Rural District council and Chitungwiza Municipality.
The paper neglected to mention that Chombo himself has been implicated in illegal land deals around Harare. Despite evidence presented by MDC-T councillors that he later suspended, Chombo has remained a key figure in the allocation of land in the capital, and now is ordering the destruction of buildings on land he may have given to party supporters. SW Radio Africa