HARARE - To its credit, the Bernard Gabriel Manyenyeni-led MDC council has honoured its pledge to demolish illegally-built houses.
The Harare City Council last week sent excavators to Airport Road and, without notifying the residents, destroyed the houses.
True, demolition gets rid of unsightly structures that contribute to blight and invite disorder, looters and vermin. But, as we have stated before, demolition is only half a solution.
The city must prepare a list of options that deserve serious consideration in coming weeks, with special emphasis on stimulating private investment while keeping home-ownership affordable.
We totally agree with the smaller MDC-led by Welshman Ncube, as reported elsewhere in this edition, that the demolitions are a violation of citizens’ fundamental rights to life, dignity, property, due process and shelter as guaranteed by the Zimbabwean Constitution.
While the demolitions have previously targeted bedraggled neighbourhoods, now they are moving to more affluent places.
Council must consider preservation of restorable, structurally sound houses over a desire to just demolish. Some of the houses demolished along Airport Road were almost villas.
Despite platitudes that the evicted would be resettled at Stoneridge, the council, through its insensitive and aloof rhetoric and conduct, once again undermined its credibility and repulsed the public with its callousness and lack of empathy.
Government officials ought to feel the pain of the people. The mainstream MDC often pledges that it will listen attentively to what the public is saying and reflect on how it might actually change people’s lives for the better.
It is unfortunate that these demolitions do not only erase homes but livelihoods of hundreds of people and have far-reaching psychological, health and financial implications on the affected families.
Women and children are suffering most, especially with these unpredictable weather patterns the country is experiencing.
Perhaps there is substance to claims by the smaller MDC that Zanu PF and the mainstream MDC are engaged in an unholy alliance to escalate the suffering of the people while they loot and apportion themselves land desperately needed by the masses.
While some may be quick to dismiss the Airport Road controversy as a petty issue involving only a handful of houses, the insensitive way in which the MDC-run council has approached the matter should not be overlooked. If this is the way officials demonstrate their way of governance, the case may not be the last in which people’s property is flattened by government excavators overnight.
This begs the question: When will the MDC administration learn to start behaving with a little more empathy and humanity?