Demolition blitz sparks legal battle

MUTARE - Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, has approached the courts here seeking to prohibit and prevent forced evictions from Chikanga high density suburb.

TIZ is seeking an injunction to prevent the demolition of 300 shacks in the slum. The residents were allegedly swindled by the Homeless People’s Federation in Dangamvura.

The anti-corruption watchdog’s lawyer Passmore Nyakureba, of Maunga Maanda and Associates, has filed an opposing affidavit at the courts.

City authorities have signalled their intention to remove them from the land.

“We took the matter to court after council sought an eviction order. The reason why we are representing them is that people who settle themselves would have contravened the law . . . but there are  fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution which should be followed and respected as well,” Nyakureba said.

He said those who break the law still have the right to approach the courts and present their case.

“We are saying council does not have powers to evict these people without giving them alternative land because they have families and children there. The land occupied is not private but council land. They should not kick these people into the streets but give them decent place to live.”

Authorities are not planning to offer new spaces to the slum dwellers.

Nyakureba said evicting them will not solve the crisis as they will still go into the street.

“Council should look at this crisis holistically not to just blame,” Nyakureba said.

TIZ advocacy officer Ched Nyamanhindi said they had given their support to the illegal settlers because of the corruption undertones in the whole saga.

“We feel there were corruption issues considering the way their stands were taken by people now living in Dangamvura Federation,” Nyamanhindi said.

The court hearing has not been scheduled yet.

Mutare Mayor Tatenda Nhamarare and his team have long vowed to bring order to city planning, and have criticised temporary structures as being unsightly, unhygienic and unregulated. They argue that they were perfectly entitled to demolish the structures that, they say, were built illegally.

A demolition list was published by City Hall and, its officials claim, all owners were informed that their “illegal” property was earmarked for demolition.

The mayor urged a full council meeting on Tuesday to vote in favour of prioritising demolishing the shanty settlement, composed mainly of disgruntled Dangamvura’s Homeless Federation Housing Project dwellers, who have been swindled of their housing contributions.

“I propose that we put all our efforts of demolishing illegal structures on the illegal Devonshire squatters because they pose a serious health risk to the city,” Nhamarare said to the approval of the entire house, except councillor Crispen Dube.

Dube argued that council should instead sympathise with the families after they were defrauded of their stands in Dangamvura’s Homeless Federation Housing Project suburb.

Scores of people across Mutare live in slum communities. Slum communities are growing because of increasing urbanisation and unavailability of affordable housing within cities. Poverty has  compelled people to endure inadequate housing and living conditions.

Human rights violations are widespread and systematic in slums. People living in slums are denied their rights to adequate housing, water and sanitation, education and health. They also experience violence from the police and criminal gangs, living under the constant threat of being forcibly evicted from their homes, in the absence of due process and other safeguards and without being offered any adequate alternatives.

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