By Moses Matenga
Parliament has summoned Local Government and Public Works minister July Moyo for grilling over the mass demolition of houses in Harare, which have brought President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration under the spotlight for human rights abuses.
The august House, exercising its oversight function, also wants Moyo to give a ministerial statement explaining the rationale behind the demolitions.
The also wanted a plausible explanation especially given that the demolitions were happening at a time Zimbabwe has received heavy rains and was in the middle of a major fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
About 200 houses were demolished by the City of Harare City in Budiriro, Harare, after the local authority obtained a High Court order to destroy the structures arguing they were illegally erected.
The demolitions attracted censure from the civil society, opposition political parties and other stakeholders who questioned the timing of the move.
Pictures of people braving the heavy rains, which included women and children crying and men battling to salvage and secure their belongings exposed to the vagaries of the weather, went viral on social media, triggering an outpour of sympathy.
Some of the pictures showed furniture strewn all over in the mud, with only a few people having managed to ferry their property to safer places.
Opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, who visited the area on Thursday, described the demolitions as “callous, disproportionate and inhumane”.
Parliament is keen to establish why the government allowed the demolitions to proceed in the current unfavourable weather conditions that have left thousands of people, mainly children exposed.
The affected residents under the Tembwe Housing co-operative, chaired by a Zanu PF official and 2018 losing candidate in the party primary elections Caleb Kadye, were left to face the rains and exposed to waterborne diseases at a time COVID-19 cases were also soaring.
Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya demanded answers on Thursday on why the government was allowing that to happen.
“However, in respect of Section 51 of our Constitution which provides for human dignity and Section 52 of the Constitution which provides for personal security, I implore the Government to properly consider its timing when demolishing illegal houses,” Chikwinya said.
“Just yesterday (Wednesday), illegal settlements in Budiriro were destroyed amidst rainfall and bad weather. My call today and my prayer is that yes, whilst the laws may provide that the houses are illegal, I implore the executive to consider the timing of destroying such in respect of human dignity and personal security.”
Ironically, Chikwinya said, the demolitions came on the day Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Human Rights Day.
He said the demolitions were a violation of people’s rights and dignity especially coming when the government has not provided an alternative.
“Zimbabwe having enacted the new Constitution in 2013 enacted Section 44 of that Constitution that provides for the respect to fundamental human rights and freedoms. This section is enforced through Section 78 of the same Constitution. Section 28 provides for the right to shelter under the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Tsitsi Gezi said the issue of demolitions was critical and Parliament will have the Minister to give a statement on the matter where MPs would be allowed to grill him.
“You have raised a pertinent issue. We will ask the responsible Minister to come and give a ministerial statement so that you can ask him some questions after,” Gezi said.
The demolitions have left the Zanu PF government and the opposition MDC Alliance embroiled in a nasty blame game over who was responsible for the move.
Mnangagwa is yet to comment officially on the matter but his spokesperson George Charamba, and Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana have struggled to distance government from the demolitions. NewsDay