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Harare threatens imminent demolitions

Harare City Council (HCC) has opened a Pandora’s Box on the eve of elections set for July 30 after the municipality declared war on illegal settlers residing in Crowborough, Churu and Eyestone Farms.

A Harare City Council front-end loader destroys an illegal brick-under-tile house belonging to a Morning Glory Housing Cooperative member in Warren Park D in 2015

HCC has threatened unspecified action if the thousands of families who built their homes at undesignated sites do not move.

Government seemed to have chosen to turn a blind eye on illegal settlements until the elections were done and dusted.

However, a day after President Emmerson Mnangagwa proclaimed the poll date, the local authority came out guns blazing insisting it will not be manipulated to regularise the illegal settlements.

“We have witnessed a proliferation of illegal settlements as we move towards the harmonised elections. City authorities will not be manipulated to regularise illegalities. We advise people being coerced into buying land at undesignated residential plots to stop and apply for proper allocation with council,” HCC said in a notice to residents.

“Buying such pieces of land is self-defeating and a waste of resources because council will not authenticate illegalities. We have, however, noticed that each time we issued warnings and prohibition orders, some people took advantage of our humane approach and decided to entrench their illegal activities.

“It would be unfair not to mention that some of the land invasions are ‘politically’ motivated with the leadership of the invasions falsely aligning their actions with political parties.

“We have done our research and established that no political party wants to tarnish their images by engaging in illegal activities when they can use the law to obtain residential land for the people.

“By this notice we are calling on all people that invaded Crowborough, Churu and Eyestone Farms to move out on their own before we take action.”

In 2012, several housing co-operatives in Crowborough illegally started distributing stands to their members, who in turn have been building houses at council’s reserved land, while vandalising the latter’s infrastructure by blocking sewer pipes, destroying sewer holding ponds and building on top of major sewer and water pipes.

“Allowing people to stay on Crowborough Farm is a travesty of justice. The farm is used for wastewater treatment. This means any human settlement on that farm is a huge risk to the health of all Harare residents.

“We cannot allow a human settlement on a wastewater farm. There is a high risk of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and other water borne diseases. Crowborough Farm is a big not,” HCC said.

However, observers canvassed by the Daily News on Sunday questioned the timing of HCC’s strongly-worded warning with Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) chairperson Simbarashe Moyo saying the warning was coming too little too late.

“Now that their terms are about to end and we are at the dawn of a new era, they suddenly wake up to smell the coffee. These councillors started work in 2013, they have been sleeping on duty,” Moyo said.

“The City of Harare and its bureaucrats have been sleeping on duty to the point that we are now having this big challenge. If the City was not sleeping on duty we were not going to have the mushrooming of illegal settlements. People follow by laws if the city has a clear enforcement system.

“But the city has been wining and dining with the land barons to such an extent that they now have carte blanche to illegally parcel land without consequences.”

Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba did not rule out that HCC’s statement could be politically-motivated designed to hide the political intentions of self-serving councillors from both the MDC and Zanu PF.

“The actions of the City of Harare in trying to use strong language in communicating their positions regarding illegal settlements is ill-timed and will be wrongly interpreted as politically motivated,” he said.

“It is coming at a time when the so-called illegal settlers have been registered as voters at their illegal settlements. They are calling them illegal settlements but these illegal settlements have been in existence for the last five years and longer with the full knowledge of councillors.”

He said residents in areas such as Glen Norah, Budiriro, Mufakose and Crowborough, have been up in arms with city fathers after their boundaries have been breached by illegal settlements.

However, city officials in the city planning department as well as housing and community services department have been accused of turning a blind eye and ignoring protests by residents in those areas.

“The city of Harare has said on many times that it’s a political matter and they cannot intervene,” Shumba said.

The chaos brewing in allocation of land has seen many falling prey from both self-enriching councillors and land barons leaving many residents interested in securing municipal housing land caught between a rock and a hard place.

In the midst of the anarchy and long waiting lists some residents have resolved to pay for municipal land through third parties where they risk sinking their investment in a deep well in which they will not be able to retrieve it.

The city council insists: “Our message is simple. Do not splash your money on illegal activities. When the land authority comes you will still be required to pay up.

People on illegal sites in areas that were regularised such as on school, clinic, business and institutional sites should stop any further construction work because we are in the process of relocating them to suitable housing land. They should keep their building materials for future use. Our thrust is to have a properly planned city.” Daily News