Council in midnight demolition blitz

HARARE - Violence threatened to rear its ugly head in Chitungwiza yesterday as a mob threatened to burn down the mayor’s house and kidnap his children following the demolition of properties by council in the early hours of Friday morning.

“A mob of more than 50 people came to my offices and threatened to beat me up, burn my house at night and kidnap my children, accusing me of pursuing a political agenda in the destruction of their properties.

“I now fear for my life so I have reported the case to the police,” said Phillip Mutoti, the town’s mayor.

The Daily News crew also witnessed residents being assaulted by youths in St Mary’s while interviewing Bonface Manyonganise, an alleged land baron, at the site of one of the demolished structures.

Manyonganise, accused of illegally allocating land, led residents to block previous demolitions after council had demolished a cottage in Zengeza 5 Extension.

Manyonganise said council had no right to demolish his building because he had legally acquired the land.

He said: “This stand is not bogus. I am not a direct beneficiary, but bought the stand from a genuine seller.”

Riot police were seen patrolling the restless town’s streets amid fears revenge attacks were likely to occur following threats to the city fathers.

George Makunde, the town clerk, admitted council had resumed its demolition exercise sanctioned by a government audit report on FROM P1

the illegal land deals in Chitungwiza.

Asked if council was acting legally since the matter is before the courts Makunde said, “All I can say is we are demolishing slabs, there are no people living in those slabs so it can’t be illegal because we are destroying illegal structures and we have already served the concerned persons with notices.”

Member of Parliament for St Mary’s constituency,  Unganayi Dickson Tarusenga, where two  business premises were demolished said: “I think these demolitions are being done to force those who were duped by the land barons to report the matter to the police, because so far there are no complainants who have come forward to report.

Chitungwiza and Seke Rural land audit report blamed non-punitive sentences previously meted out to offenders of illegal land as having led to the “proliferation of land sales and occupation, as the sentences were so light to deter would-be offenders”.

Residents paid a total of nearly $30 million to land barons to acquire the illegal stands, said the report.

It specifically recommended for prosecution of  “Councillor Dr F Mabamba (United We Stand Housing Cooperative), Bonface Manyonganise (Yemurai Disabled Cooperative), Manyana (Chitungwiza Ruvimbo Housing Cooperative), Mr Makuchete (Key College), Major T Marufu, youths led by Hamandishe and Honourable MP Chigumba.”

The property owners, the majority of whom are Zanu PF youths claimed a political hand was influencing the demolitions, arguing that council does not work at night.

Zanu PF district chairman, Lovemore Muzuwa expressed concern at his party’s insensitiveness saying it would cost it support in the future and called upon the party leadership to urgently address the problem.

“We have Zanu PF people in council, but it is surprising that they are at the forefront directing the demolitions and we do not know how they expect us to go to the same people to tell them to support the party.

“They are destroying the party because of their behaviour. Some of the people bought the stands from Bhunu and Muchesa,” said Muzuwa.

Residents’ representatives, Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) said in the absence of a court order, council was acting illegally and vowed to resist the demolitions.

The residents claim the exercise is unfair and would do whatever it takes to stop the municipality from destroying their houses.

“They have chosen to use illegal means, so we are simply going to react by resorting to illegal means as well,” said Chitrest director Marvelous Kumalo.

Kumalo accused council of acting in bad faith saying they had agreed with the city fathers at a strategic meeting in Mutare two weeks ago that the illegal properties would be regularised to improve the cash-strapped local authority’s revenue base.

“We have since alerted our lawyers to give us direction but in the meantime, residents will defend their territory even if it means using illegal means because we will be copying from a legal institution (council) that chose to act illegally.”

Section 74 of the country’s Constitution states that no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.

Comments (6)

When you switch on a heater in a room on a cold day you do not open all the windows at the same time because it defeats the purpose of switching on the heater - the room will remain cold. This is exactly what Zimbabwean authorities are doing by demolishing illegal structures. People from the Reserves will still come from the Reserves and build more illegal structures in the urban area. There should be some restriction on rural-to-urban migration (closing the windows), what the authorities refer to as “unplanned urbanisation”. Illegal structures should be demolished because they are illegal and are an eyesore. There should be zero tolerance to building illegal structures. This is precisely why white governments in the past made dawn raids (inspections) to weed out illegal occupants who end up building illegal structures.

Musona - 27 September 2014

The same people whose illegal homes have been destroyed will be hoodwinked again to build these structures on condition they vote for zanu come next election . The best way is to let these people build these structures which will be developed into proper homes but on condition they do not vote here .If they want to vote they can go and vote where they came from . This way those who always bring these people and resettle them illegal with the aim of bolstering their votes will gain nothing.

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GALLERYCARTRIDGES - 29 September 2014

I still do not understand where all along the city council with its godfather Mr Chombo sitting when residents were erecting the so-called illegal structures?They are a disgrace to the nation as they are always on disservice to the people.

carson Macate - 29 September 2014

Why distroy people property now. Where were you when these structures were being built. Chombo is the God father of corruption, make proper investigations then this man will surely ne pointed at in all this missey. Sungai vanhu varibehind this messy not kungorarisa vana padze. Vave kutsya kuti what they started is now going out of hand and vave exposed. The truth shall come out one day.

felix - 1 October 2014

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