'Govt let down Epworth residents'

HARARE - Government should have protected Epworth residents whose homes were demolished by a state-owned property developer, Local Government deputy minister Sessel Zvidzai has said.

Close to 200 Epworth families were left homeless after police razed down their homes at the instigation of Sunway City (Pvt) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe.

Last week’s demolitions were a violation of human rights as well as unconstitutional, Zvidzai told the Daily News.

“What happened in Epworth should not be tolerated. We should not allow another Murambatsvina to take place in this country, whether at mini-level or full-scale operation,” he said.

“People’s homes should not be demolished without providing for an alternative. Those people who demolished the houses should have engaged the local authority and assisted the residents get accommodation,” said Zvidzai.

When the Daily News visited the area, affected residents appeared shocked by the police action, especially since the illegal settlement had the blessings of the local Zanu PF leadership which parcelled out the land.

“The police came last week, I think on Friday and told us we had to vacate since the owners of the land, Sunway City, wanted to use their land,” said one woman holding a crying baby.

“We were given time to take out our property but we have nowhere to go,” she said.

Sunway City (Pvt) Ltd is a government agency mandated with developing world-class integrated residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and recreational parks.

Zvidzai said he has since engaged the local board to assist the affected residents with alternative accommodation.

“The Epworth local board has since started assisting the residents with accommodation and I hope the ministry of National Housing will attend to the matter as well.

“This is wet season and we should not expose our people to rain which could end up causing more problems for this country. These people have rights. It should be government priority to offer accommodation to these people before a demolition is done,” he said.

Some of the affected residents told the Daily News that the timing of the demolitions was “bad” because of the rains. - Xolisani Ncube

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