Mixed reactions to Chitown demolitions
By CHRISTINE HLENGANI
CHITUNGWIZA municipality on Friday put up a brave face and demolished houses in a surprise move that has brought mixed feelings among residents with many supporting council’s tough stance while residents association leaders took a cautious approach over the issue.
Several government land audit reports have revealed that the town has been the worst-hit by land barons, but little action has been taken by the responsible authorities to remedy the service delivery menace that has led to some houses being built on top of sewer lines.
The opposition-lead council has in the past blamed political expediency on the part of President Robert Mugabe’s regime for shielding the barons, who are mostly from Zanu PF, from prosecution.
The government has also pointed a finger at the corruption and ineptitude of urban councils as the root cause of illegal housing developments in the town.
In a social media discussion, a resident said while council officials were corrupt, the affected residents were not innocent either.
“Council are not wrong in demolishing the houses, in my opinion. They are wrong in allowing the illegal selling or parcelling out of land and ignoring illegal developments on the same illegal stands before making a decision to stop everything.
Another resident weighed in: “While it is right not to be arbitrarily evicted, people should also go to court to protect council property that is public property as soon as illegal settlements begin.
“Residents’ associations shouldn’t be seen to only appear in court to protect illegal settlers but never appear in court to protect public property.”
He added that illegal settlers were abusing the Constitution that protects them from arbitrary eviction by deliberately invading council land and quickly putting up council structures “knowing fully well that they are free lawyers that will fight for them in the courts courtesy of residents’ associations.
Residents’ leader Marvellous Kumalo urged council to strike a balance between restoring order in the town and engaging in arbitrary evictions that are inhumane and unlawful.
“The other issue that needs a closer look is that some of the victims of these house demolitions are in possession of offer letters and leases from the same local authority” he added.
However, council spokesperson Lovemore Meya, reminded the residents that possessing an offer letter alone was not the only requirement that allowed the construction of a structure.
“One should be armed with an approved plan, lease and offer letter to start doing any form of construction. In the absence of any of these you cannot construct anything”.
Meya added that prohibition and enforcement orders were issued but the residents did not take them seriously.