Confusion over illegal settlements demolitions

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Mugove Tafirenyika

SENIOR STAFF WRITER

tafirenyikam@dailynews.co.zw

CONFUSION reigns supreme in government over demolition of illegal settlements amid contradictory positions by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Local Government ministry officials, the Daily News reports.

This comes as Chitungwiza Municipality was last week forced to reverse its plan to demolish houses in St Mary’s, Zengeza, Seke and Nyatsime after it was challenged to produce a court order empowering it to do so by human rights lawyers.

While Harare provincial development coordinator Tafadzwa Muguti told the Daily News on Tuesday that the government would, where possible, regularise houses and other buildings as well as demolish some illegal settlements across Chitungwiza, Ziyambi told Parliament on Wednesday that it was inhumane.

“I must indicate that the central government does not control local authorities to the extent of sending them to demolish houses. Every demolition must be backed by a court order and if there is no court order, it means that it is an illegal process.

“It should not have been done in the first place, but we have stopped several evictions and demolitions because we felt that it was inhumane even where court orders were there,” Ziyambi said.

He was responding to MPs who wanted to know if it was the government’s policy to demolish people’s shelter on account of having been acquired illegally. 

This comes as Muguti insisted that demolitions would go ahead and that he had authorised the action that Chitungwiza Municipality was set to take.

“I am the highest-ranking civil servant in both local authorities which are under the purview of the ministry of Local Government, hence I have the power to coordinate everything there.

“We are going to regularise some areas where it is possible, but we are not going to tolerate land barons.

“Councillors do not have executive authority which means that the town clerk, who reports to the ministry, has. However, now that provincial coordinators were appointed in September, they no longer directly report to the minister, but to us.

“What we have simply done is to tell the local authorities to do their job because since 2016, they were sitting on several court orders to evict illegal settlers and we have asked why they have not been acting on them.

“We cannot have councillors determine where to regularise and where not to because in many instances, they are also implicated so there is conflict of interest. We are therefore going to do the exercise on the government’s terms because it is the one that is going to foot the expenses when it comes to compensation,” Muguti said.

Muguti said a provincial taskforce has since been set up to take the local authority to task over the matter.

“Those who are saying we have taken over the running of the municipality are people with their own agenda. I am almost always in touch with Chitungwiza mayor Lovemore Maiko and his Harare counterpart Jacob Mafume to give updates on what is happening,” he said.

The council is set to demolish houses and other buildings in 35 illegal settlements across the town, in a move that could leave hundreds of families homeless.

Structures that will be demolished are houses built on wetlands, sewer lines, under electricity power lines and on road and railway servitudes.

Most home-seekers bought land from land barons and were assured by them that required authority for building had been obtained.

Houses to be demolished in St Mary’s are those built on Macheka Square, a school site, behind St Mary’s Police Station, behind Zengeza Main Primary School, near the pump station number 3, St Mary’s Council Creche, St Mary’s Primary School site, wetland adjacent to and behind St Mary’s Cemetery, the site from Seke Road Bridge along Manyame River, St Mary’s Administration Offices entrance and Chaminuka Main Road.

In Zengeza, the local authority is demolishing houses built in Zengeza 5 along Chitungwiza Road, Zengeza 5 wetland on Rockview Extension, Zengeza 4 Pagomba wetland along the stream and a wetland under high voltage electricity power lines opposite Girl Child Network, Zengeza 3 Cone Textile opposite Delta and Zengeza 4 wetland, known as PaChief.

In Seke, the municipality will be demolishing structures on Unit J wetlands, Unit K Key College and at Chirunga Shopping Centre, Along Mharapara Road, Unit A wetland from Chibuku to Tafa Shops and adjacent to Chibuku Stadium, Unit G Road buffer along Harare-Dema Road Servitude, Unit O along Duri River, Unit NOP extension, Unit P wetland, wetland between Unit N and F, areas between Garikai Hlalani Kuhle, Unit L extension, wetland adjacent Unit L Cemetery and Zanoremba.

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