By Jairos Saunyama
The government stopped the demolition of fancy houses at an alleged illegal settlement on the outskirts of Harare after it emerged that Zanu PF bigwigs owned some of the housing stands.
Several mansions were razed down in the Melfort area under Goromonzi Rural District Council before the ruling party intervened and stopped the exercise a week ago.
The demolitions, however, continue in poor neighbourhoods of Harare and Chitingwiza where informal traders have seen their trading spaces being destroyed in the past few days.
It has since emerged that Zanu PF bigwigs moved in to rescue the mansions in the Diamond Park area after realising the party’s supporters would lose properties.
The move irked top Zanu PF officials, who convened an urgent meeting and ordered the demolitions to stop.
Zanu PF officials summoned all Goromonzi councillors, Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister Aplonia Munzverengi and Goromonzi Rural District Council chief executive officer Trust Madhovi to a crisis meeting a week ago to discuss the demolitions.
It emerged at the meeting that the housing project was the brainchild of Zanu PF youths through Eastwinds Trust and Vitadge Properties.
The two companies have since denied allegations that they acquired the land illegally.
Roger Pote, Eastwinds director, told some of the victims that Zanu PF as a party knew about the project and government officials were aware of its existence.
Pote claimed some “powerful” people were eyeing the land for their own selfish interests.
“This project was initiated by Zanu PF youths with the help of the late Provincial Affairs minister Joel Biggie Matiza,” he said.
“This land doesn’t belong to the council, it is state land.
“We even got the go-ahead from the Ministry of Local Government to develop it.
“The papers are there.”
Some government officials had pledged to persuade investors such as the National Social Security Authority and the National Building Society to build infrastructure in the area.
According to a letter from the developer’s lawyers — Takaindisa Law Chambers — dated August 13, 2020 and addressed to National Housing and Social Amenities ministry on the regularisation of the housing project gleaned by this paper, Zanu PF top officials were involved in the project as far back as last year.
“On the 25th of June 2020, our client had a meeting in your offices, in the presence of (acting) secretary for youth league (Zanu PF) Tendai Chirau, political commissar Zanu PF province Kudakwashe Damson, secretary for indigenisation and economic empowerment Tonderai Bosha, youth chairperson Mashonaland East Calvin Mutsvairo, Mashonaland East political commissar Lincoln Matare and permanent secretary in the National Housing ministry Mr Chinyanga in which our client agreed to be under the ministry,” reads part of the letter.
“On July 27, 2020, our clients had another meeting with Honourable JB Matiza, who is the provincial chairperson of Zanu PF Mashonaland East [late], a cabinet minister Daniel Garwe, Mashonaland East province secretary for security T Mangwiro, chairman for planning Goromonzi council P Chikandamina, and other leadership where it was agreed that the project at Melfort should proceed under the supervision of the National Housing ministry and it was ensured that the same is regularised so that everything is above board.”
The Melfort settlement has 1 300 housing stands which were allocated to civil servants, including members of the uniformed forces, Zanu PF youths, women’s league members, war veterans and people living with disabilities.
On September 18 last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was expected to commission the Diamond Park project before the event was postponed to a later date at the last minute.
Prior to Mnangagwa’s visit, the Joint Operations Command, the supreme organ for the coordination of state security had already camped in the area while tents were pitched ahead of the grand ground-breaking ceremony.
According to a letter dated September 4, 2020, signed by Mnangagwa’s principal private secretary, one W Gwatiringa, the Zanu PF leader confirmed the invitation by Garwe.
MDC Alliance ward 15 councillor Muziwakhe Banda said Goromonzi Rural District Council resolved to demolish all illegal structures. Banda said the Melfort demolitions were not the first as houses had been demolished at Kwabhora.
“However, as MDC, we were against the demolition of houses,” he said.
“(The Melfort) demolitions were purely political.
“Zanu PF councillors were summoned to the party headquarters where a decision was made.
“We were also summoned by our party where a position was taken that we don’t want houses to be demolished, but we could not be involved because the demolitions was purely a Zanu PF fight.
“It is like babamukuru and babamunini (brothers) fighting, we could not intervene.
“We can’t wade into a Zanu PF fight.”
Banda is the only opposition councillor in Goromonzi.
Human rights groups have condemned the demolitions in Harare, saying they were in violation of the law.
The government insists it wants to restore sanity in urban areas where illegal settlements continue to mushroom. The Standard