Govt to destroy 10 000 houses

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HARARE – At least 10 000 houses face demolition in the sprawling town of Chitungwiza, as authorities target illegal structures which were constructed in wetlands and on top of sewer mains.

Chitungwiza, which is now starved of ventilation gaps as land barons parcel out stands for private gain, is faced with acute water shortages traced to overpopulation.

FLASHBACK: Operation Murambatsvina, which left thousands homeless, still lingers in people's minds. The Local Government ministry has ordered the demolition of 10 000 houses in Chitungwiza.

The town’s newly-appointed mayor Philip Mutoti told the Daily News that they have received a directive from the Local Government ministry to raze at least 10 000 homes.

“There is an order that we destroy at least 10 000 houses built  illegally,” Mutoti said.

“The officials said the ‘mushrooms’ should be rooted out. As a new council, we have engaged the town planner who will give us directions and recommendations.”

Ignatius Chombo, the Local Government minister was unreachable for comment yesterday. But, his deputy Joel Biggie Matiza said: “All illegal structures must go.”

He said they were meeting today to tackle the Chitungwiza housing issue.

Chitungwiza town clerk George Makunde said the town has not officially received a specific directive to raze down homes but was dealing with illegal structures.

He said the town was concerned with the illegal structures, saying corrective measures, such as raiding construction sites on illegal places, was already underway.

“The government has said it does not condone illegal structures. As in many local authorities, there is a hive of activity in Chitungwiza,” Makunde said.

“As a council, we have a mandate to stop such developments. We are raiding areas where people are constructing homes illegally. Such structures have to go.”

The operation echoes the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina when authorities demolished illegally-built homes.

Hundreds of thousands people were forced out of Harare houses, with police setting fire on some structures.

A UN report condemned the two-month campaign that saw about 700 000 people losing their homes or livelihoods in the operation.

A UN report said the campaign violated international law, with the UN calling it a “catastrophic injustice” to Zimbabwe’s poorest.

The envisaged clean-up operation could further cripple Chitungwiza since it has to fork out millions of dollars to compensate thousands of victims who fell for the housing scam.

Makunde said they have since been directed by the Local Government ministry to regularise 1 647 houses which were sold by Zanu PF councillor Fredrick Mabamba.

He said council was, however facing resistance from beneficiaries who are against making any further payments for stands they bought for as much as $4 000.

Thousands of houses and businesses were built illegally and the previous administration did not do anything to stop it, he said.

An investigation report on the Allocation, Change of Use, Subdivision and Repossession of Stands by a team appointed by Chombo last year revealed massive corruption in the sprawling town leading to the dismissal of several councillors.

The commission also recommended that houses built on road sites, on top of sewage pipes and those built under electricity cables be demolished.

Former Chitungwiza town clerk Godfrey Tanyanyiwa was this year convicted on three counts of fraud and concealing from a principal, a personal interest in a transaction.

At the start of the trial last year, Tanyanyiwa was facing 10 counts, all linked to his tenure at the beleaguered town that has failed to pay its workers for over six months now.

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