HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has demanded that the Zanu PF-led government stops the “madness of destroying people’s homes and livelihoods.”
Speaking to the Daily News on Tuesday after touring suburbs in Ruwa, Zimre Park and Damafalls where police demolished tuck shops, the former prime minister described the planned demolitions of thousands of houses in the capital as “callous and miscalculated”.
“It is overzealous, callous and inhumane and in some cases it is actually vindictiveness,” Tsvangirai said.
The MDC leader, who enjoys popular support in urban areas, distanced his party — which controls Ruwa council — from the demolitions saying the government is punishing urbanites for voting MDC in the July 31 vote.
“It should be sensitive and must have a conscience in view of the suffering that the people are facing,” Tsvangirai said.
He said he was happy that the Ruwa Town Council was working on easing the residents’ hardships by constructing corner shops and ensuring that informal and formal traders co-exist.
Tsvangirai said instead of destroying houses, the government should first build alternative shelter for the affected.
“Sometimes there is no rationale, we experienced this during Murambatsvina, and the clean-up had no rationale,” Tsvangirai said.
“At the end of the day, they did not provide people with alternative accommodation. It is the same state of mind now that, we destroy then build. Why don’t you build and then ask the owners to destroy their illegal structures.”
Government, which is currently battling a massive housing backlog, is planning a second clean-up campaign that is likely to hit the poor hardest.
“I had been invited to Ruwa by the local board to inspect shops that had been destroyed by the police who had been given orders by the government and what I saw is very sad,” said Tsvangirai.
An elderly man, who is taking care of eight orphans had his shop — his only source of livelihood — destroyed.
“They destroyed my shop and now I don’t have any other source of income, what am I going to give these children?” asked a distraught Joshua Chipeyana from Ruwa.
Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC spokesperson, who accompanied Tsvangirai on the tour, said the “second Murambatsvina” was a sustained political programme aimed at paralysing urban areas.
“The problem of destroying people’s homes is aimed at harassing urban voters through a systematic creation of poverty,” Mwonzora said.
“Zanu PF wants to create poverty so that at the end of the day they are able to control people through handouts.”
Government insists that structures that are to be destroyed are illegal as they do not appear on town plans while residents say they were legally given the land by local authorities.