SENIOR STAFF WRITER
THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has expressed concern over the recurrent demolition of houses in Harare, calling on local authorities to curtail the issue of land barons preying on vulnerable home seekers.
This comes as more than 20 houses that were illegally built in a cantonment area in Belvedere West, next to the National Heroes Acre, were demolished by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) with the endorsement of Harare City Council.
“ZimRights calls upon Harare City Council, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to strengthen their surveillance and monitoring and ensure that land barons, who include council and government officials as well as politicians, are brought to book and preventative measures are put in place so that homeseekers are not taken advantage of.
“ZimRights also calls on the government to respect Section 28 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which says, the State and all its institutions and agencies of government at every level must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its limits of the resources available to them, to enable every person to have access to adequate shelter,” ZimRights Harare provincial chairperson Takawira Mashingaidze said yesterday.
Mashingaidze further said what was worrying was that the pervasive conduct of land barons continues to thrive under the nose of law enforcement agents and municipal authorities, effectively exposing thousands of homeseekers to conmen.
“On the 3rd of September 2020, ZimRights human rights monitoring team visited Belvedere West, where the Zimbabwe National Army has destroyed houses that were built on illegal land, leaving many families homeless. The demolition came two days before the residents had been warned to demolish and vacate the area, which was a follow up to a 2019 court order for them to vacate as the area is said to be a cantonment.
“While ZimRights observes the court order was in accordance with the provisions of the Zimbabwean Constitution (Section 74), which 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.
“The nature of the demolitions, which began during the night, is a cause for concern as it exposed the affected families, including children to the harsh weather elements.
“ZimRights also learnt that some of the affected residents were forced to take part in the demolitions and those who refused or were deemed slow were subjected to assault,” Mashingaidze said.
“The affected residents of Belvedere West claim to have bought their stands from a cooperative, whose existence has been denied by the Harare City Council. What is clear though is that these residents are among countless others in Zimbabwe, who have fallen victim to the land barons,” he added.
City of Harare spokesperson Michael Chideme said it was important for residents to ensure that they are allocated land legally.
“Council has a number of court orders to remove illegal structures. We would like to advise all people who were served with eviction orders to voluntarily move off the illegally occupied pieces of land,” he said.