Resist demolitions, residents told

RESIDENTS have been urged to resist future demolitions or simply sue government or the local authority for destroying their properties.

At a discussion between residents associations, human rights lawyers and politicians, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras said government and councils should be put to task for destroying people’s property without following due procedure.

Last year, the Harare City Council demolished nearly 200 structures in Harare, arguing that they had been built on illegally acquired spaces.

In January, government demolished tens of houses at Arlington Estate along Airport Road after President Robert Mugabe had ordered for their destruction, arguing that the homes were an eyesore.

Petras said demolitions should be the very last resort after exhausting all dialogue and possible regularisation processes.
“The government showed no respect for the law, no respect for the Constitution by putting people in the open, disturbing school going children and denying residents to access medical treatment in those affected areas.

“What they did was wrong by moving people from their properties and all other things associated with evictions; as such residents should approach the courts for compensation,” Petras said.
The lawyer said the moment a house is constructed illegally it is automatically protected by the law and should not be demolished unlawfully.

She said the destruction of a property is not the only thing destroyed but family and a sense of community that comes with staying in a society.

Petras said if government and local authorities do not stop with the demolitions, they may find themselves inundated with lawsuits or worse.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said as part of those who were crafting the Constitution, they factored in a clause on the right against eviction in Section 74.

He said the party strongly believes that no person should be evicted from where they are staying without being provided with suitable alternative accommodation.

Mwonzora said demolitions are nothing new as they are used as a revenge tool by Zanu PF against the urban electorate that did not vote for them.

“Unfortunately, demolitions were done sadistically in the rainy season, putting people at risk of contracting water-borne diseases and property being damaged. If they were so hungry to demolish why did they not do it in the dry season?
“These current demolitions are trying to contain the restlessness that is growing in the towns and cities due to poverty and unemployment. Zanu PF is doing this as a systematic way of trying to cow the urban population,” he said.

Peoples Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said local authorities are also to blame as they watch in nigh as people build their homes and even bring inspectors who approve of all the various construction stages of a structure, only to demolish it after it is complete.

Mafume added that because of the numerical advantage residents have over those sent to demolish their properties, they should instead protest.

“Chinoshamisa ndechekuti panoputswa dzimba panenge paine truck one nemavictims akawanda. Asi vanhu ngatimboitaiwo ushingi. Truck one inouya kuzoputsa dzimba 100 vanhu vakangotarisa vachiona vachichema. (What is surprising is that only one truck is sent to demolish nearly 100 houses, with residents watching at a distance as their properties are destroyed. Sometimes we just need to be courageous about this issue).

“Munodii kumborambawo kuitirwa izvozvi? Havana kana court order inotaridza kuti vanzi vaputse asi vanhu vanongotarisa. People must and should be able to resist some of these things. (Why don’t you also resist the demolitions. They have no court order authorising them to demolish),” Mafume said.—Helen Kadirire

Post a comment