Council in midnight demolition blitz
By Mugove Tafirenyika and Albert Masaka
CHITUNGWIZA – Violence threatened to rear its ugly head in Chitungwiza yesterday as a mob threatened to burn down the mayor’s house and kidnap his children following the demolition of properties by council in the early hours of Friday morning.
“A mob of more than 50 people came to my offices and threatened to beat me up, burn my house at night and kidnap my children, accusing me of pursuing a political agenda in the destruction of their properties.
“I now fear for my life so I have reported the case to the police,” said Phillip Mutoti, the town’s mayor.
The Daily News crew also witnessed residents being assaulted by youths in St Mary’s while interviewing Bonface Manyonganise, an alleged land baron, at the site of one of the demolished structures.
Manyonganise, accused of illegally allocating land, led residents to block previous demolitions after council had demolished a cottage in Zengeza 5 Extension.
Manyonganise said council had no right to demolish his building because he had legally acquired the land.
He said: “This stand is not bogus. I am not a direct beneficiary, but bought the stand from a genuine seller.”
Riot police were seen patrolling the restless town’s streets amid fears revenge attacks were likely to occur following threats to the city fathers.
George Makunde, the town clerk, admitted council had resumed its demolition exercise sanctioned by a government audit report on FROM P1
the illegal land deals in Chitungwiza.
Asked if council was acting legally since the matter is before the courts Makunde said, “All I can say is we are demolishing slabs, there are no people living in those slabs so it can’t be illegal because we are destroying illegal structures and we have already served the concerned persons with notices.”
Member of Parliament for St Mary’s constituency, Unganayi Dickson Tarusenga, where two business premises were demolished said: “I think these demolitions are being done to force those who were duped by the land barons to report the matter to the police, because so far there are no complainants who have come forward to report.
Chitungwiza and Seke Rural land audit report blamed non-punitive sentences previously meted out to offenders of illegal land as having led to the “proliferation of land sales and occupation, as the sentences were so light to deter would-be offenders”.
Residents paid a total of nearly $30 million to land barons to acquire the illegal stands, said the report.
It specifically recommended for prosecution of “Councillor Dr F Mabamba (United We Stand Housing Cooperative), Bonface Manyonganise (Yemurai Disabled Cooperative), Manyana (Chitungwiza Ruvimbo Housing Cooperative), Mr Makuchete (Key College), Major T Marufu, youths led by Hamandishe and Honourable MP Chigumba.”
The property owners, the majority of whom are Zanu PF youths claimed a political hand was influencing the demolitions, arguing that council does not work at night.
Zanu PF district chairman, Lovemore Muzuwa expressed concern at his party’s insensitiveness saying it would cost it support in the future and called upon the party leadership to urgently address the problem.
“We have Zanu PF people in council, but it is surprising that they are at the forefront directing the demolitions and we do not know how they expect us to go to the same people to tell them to support the party.
“They are destroying the party because of their behaviour. Some of the people bought the stands from Bhunu and Muchesa,” said Muzuwa.
Residents’ representatives, Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) said in the absence of a court order, council was acting illegally and vowed to resist the demolitions.
The residents claim the exercise is unfair and would do whatever it takes to stop the municipality from destroying their houses.
“They have chosen to use illegal means, so we are simply going to react by resorting to illegal means as well,” said Chitrest director Marvelous Kumalo.
Kumalo accused council of acting in bad faith saying they had agreed with the city fathers at a strategic meeting in Mutare two weeks ago that the illegal properties would be regularised to improve the cash-strapped local authority’s revenue base.
“We have since alerted our lawyers to give us direction but in the meantime, residents will defend their territory even if it means using illegal means because we will be copying from a legal institution (council) that chose to act illegally.”
Section 74 of the country’s Constitution states that no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. Daily News