HARARE - The right to shelter is a right enshrined in our Constitution and we hope that our government that is in the habit of demolishing people’s houses will one day appreciate that sobering fact.
Thumbs up to High Court judge Priscilla Chigumba who rapped government departments for illegally demolishing houses along Airport Road without a court order, for indeed if the government cannot observe the laws enacted by its own legislators, then who will?
To quote President Robert Mugabe’s speech in 1980 when he said “only a government that subjects itself to the rule of law has any moral right to demand of its citizens obedience to the rule of law” we feel that it is time that the powers that be start to act in a way that inspires confidence in the populace instead of this brazen disregard for them and their welfare.
While we certainly do not condone the construction of houses on illegal sites, we condemn the wanton and often callous demolition of those structures by a government that fails to offer alternatives — more so when the actual construction was let to proceed under the government’s watch.
According to Section 74 of the Constitution, no person may be evicted from his or her home, or have it demolished without a court order made after considering all the relevant circumstances, but the disturbing trend in Zimbabwe from as far back as the infamous operation Murambatsvina in 2005, houses have been razed to ground without following due process.
It is noteworthy to quote what Chigumba said in her judgment, “The culture of impunity that has pervaded and corroded our government departments should be roundly condemned” and we only hope that our government respects such informed observations otherwise failure to do so will only spawn lawlessness, and worryingly, from the top.
Our government should desist from being reactionary and be proactive in helping desperate home seekers acquire decent houses on legal land so as to avoid this propensity to raze down what will have been built obviously at a fortune.
We reiterate the cooperatives that are behind the illegal sale of stands should be punished and those who fleece unsuspecting and often desperate residents of their hard-earned moneys should be locked up.
Land barons at the heart of the land scandals seem to go scot-free while the victim is the one who is made to suffer as houses are destroyed, usually without compensation.
Instead of these malcontents being thrown into jail, they are just given a slap on the wrist, avoid jail and left to live in the lap of leisure while their victims live as squatters or squashed with relatives after losing their too often decent houses.