Epworth demolitions: Residents demand $60 000

HARARE - Six people left homeless after their houses were demolished in Epworth are demanding $60 000 as compensation from government.

The six have now approached the Supreme Court to fight the “constitutionally reprehensible” actions of the police and Epworth local board. They are demanding $10 000 each.

According to the court application, Peter Makani, Thomas Marumise, Goronga Nyagwete, Elliot Sithole, Clever Ngirazi and Rose Munava’s homes were ruthlessly destroyed on September 18 this year.

It is their argument that they were not given proper notices and a chance to object to the destruction of their homes and property.

The chairperson of Epworth Local Board and minister of Local Government Rural and Urban Development Ignatius Chombo are cited as first and second respondents respectively.

Commissioner General of Police Augustine Chihuri, co-ministers of Home Affairs Theresa Makone and Kembo Mohadi and the Attorney General Johannes Tomana are cited as third, fourth and fifth respondents respectively.

“When the 1st and 3rd respondents’ functionaries arrived, we were ordered to immediately leave the area. No explanation was given and none of the officers attended to our questions and enquiries. It was intimidating and the other applicants and I left our homes running. We could not take anything from our houses as we fled in fear,” the application reads.

The residents allege that their constitutionally entrenched protection from inhuman treatment was contravened.

They further claim the destruction of their homes constituted very serious constitutional transgressions which warranted the court to consider and order constitutional damages as an appropriate remedy.

“Even if the structures were illegal, which we dispute, the manner and callousness of the destruction was inhuman and constitutionally repugnant. All our earthly belongings were destroyed, exposing us to depravation and starvation. We were left with nothing but clothes,” the six claim.

A senior lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) Tawanda Zhuwarara, representing the six, said the Epworth Local Board was supposed to protect his clients by formalising informal settlements.

“The contentious issues surrounding ownership are because of the history of Epworth,” he said.

The settlement’s history is an example of neglect of the area 12 km south east of Harare.

Epworth was established in the late 1890s by the Methodist Church and throughout the colonial years, it grew as a Church mission consisting of two villages, Chiremba and Chizungu.

In the late 1970s, at the height of the liberation war, Epworth saw a surge in population as people fled the fighting raging in rural areas.

Faced with this unprecedented growth, the Methodist Church donated part of Epworth Mission land to government for the subsequent establishment of a local government structure by the Local Government ministry.

This resulted in the establishment of the Epworth Local Board in 1986 on the understanding that the Epworth Local Board would be responsible for designing and providing infrastructure services to the community as well as tackle service provision and rationalising the settlement. Which the six say has not happened up to now.

ZLHR said the local board and the police acted without lawful authority or regard to due process of the law. - Bridget Mananavire

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