Mutare backtracks on tuckshop demolitions

MUTARE - The city council here has backtracked on its decision to demolish illegal tuckshops in the high and medium density residential suburbs following pressure from residents’ associations.

Had the Mutare City Council stood by its March 31 ultimatum, residents had warned the city fathers that they were surely headed for a for major showdown in the eastern border city.

The tuckshop operators were adamant they would not destroy their only source of income, forcing the council into a major climb-down.

Council had defended the planned clampdown, arguing that they wanted to bring sanity to the city and abolish illegal trading which was prejudicing registered traders.

Council had said the move was also aimed at averting the outbreak of communicable diseases.

Mutare mayor Tatenda Nhamarare yesterday said his council had shelved the planned demolitions following an urgent meeting held with residents’ representatives on Tuesday.

“As council, we managed to meet with the residents and agreed that we first allocate the affected individuals alternative portions of land to put up their structures at designated areas before we move in and demolish what they already have,” Nhamarare said.

“It is not like we have approved of the current illegal structures; no. We want to offer them somewhere first and then we pull down the illegal structures.”

Last week, Nhamarare had vowed that  council would not backtrack on its decision to have the illegal tuckshops demolished. He said the move was above board and in the best interests of public health and safety.

City engineer Donald Nyatoti has maintained that the local authority was guided by its by-laws no matter how harsh they may be.

Mutare councillors had expressed concern at the mushrooming of the tuckshops.

Peter Ndirowei, a tuckshop owner in Dangamvura, said they could not just demolish their structures.

Ndirowei said the tuckshops were built to provide a source of income for unemployed people in the wake of increasing company closures. He said demolishing their tuck-shops would be sending them straight into abject poverty.

David Mutambirwa, a Mutare social commentator, said the move by the council would have gone against government’s empowerment drive.

Mutambirwa said demolishing the structures was counterproductive because the tuckshop operators were religious ratepayers to the council.

Earlier, Ward 14 councillor, Blessing Tandi, had moved a motion against the demolition of tuckshops, which was met with mixed feelings from fellow councillors.

The majority of councillors sanctioned the crackdown of emerging tuckshops in the city.

In his motion, Clr Tandi said they should not demolish some of the “well-built” tuck-shops.

The councillor said as the economy is bleeding, it had pushed people to vending to earn a living, adding that he was not opposing city by-law but wanted the operation to have a humane face.

Councillor Enock Pahla said there must be no selective application of the law, adding that the only solution would be for people to apply for “corner shops” and build “proper” structures at designated places.

Another councillor, Crispen Dube of ward 9 in Dangamvura, said his main worry was the health hazard posed by the illegal tuckshops.

It is estimated that Mutare has close to 15 000 illegal tuckshops.


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