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Government accused of betrayal as demolitions begin
Tererai Karimakwenda, SW Radio Africa
November 07, 2013

View this article on the SW Radio Africa website

A government ordered demolition of tuck shops and residential structures got underway in Ruwa and Damofalls on Wednesday, under the watchful eye of the riot police, as victims accused the local government of betrayal.

Despite strong condemnation from civil society and residents’ groups concerned with the welfare of families, bulldozers tore down structures as ordered by Local Government Minster Ignatius Chombo.

And on Thursday in Harare, the police are reported to have confiscated goods from informal traders and detained some street vendors in the city centre. Government had already warned that the so-called cleanup would expand to other urban areas.

Ironically, it is Chombo himself who is being accused of illegally allocating land to gain support for Zanu-PF ahead of the July 31st elections, land on which these so-called illegal structures were built. The party ‘won’ legislative seats in traditionally MDC-T constituencies, fuelling debate as to why they are now evicting innocent families.

SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa, who witnessed the Ruwa demolitions Wednesday, said the Goromonzi Rural District Council has been officially billing residents with tuck shops on their properties at $30 per month.

“They were being billed as part of their rates just like water and refuse. Council officials also visited the tuck shops regularly and demanded bribes of between $50 up to $100 every time. So the Council regularized these businesses,” Muchemwa said.

Meanwhile a72-hour ultimatum was issued to the Local Government Ministry by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), demanding that government honor the basic rights of individuals.

“We notified the Minister that the pending evictions violate several of the key protective provisions, such as the right to shelter and freedom from arbitrary eviction, which are protected under the new constitution,” said Kumbirai Mafunda, Communications officer for the lawyers group.

Mafunda told SW Radio Africa that they have asked the Local Government ministry to explain how long the cleanup campaign will take, how many families and children will be left without shelter as a result and what measures they are taking to protect them before rolling out the campaign.

“If they fail to give people alternative accommodation, we have told them they cannot carry out this exercise without a court order, as provided for under section 74of the new constitution of Zimbabwe. It says no person may be evicted from their home or have it demolished without a court order,” Mafunda explained.

With government warning other areas to prepare for the same, Zanu-PF supporters in Chitungwiza took to the streets Wednesday to protest the pending “cleanup”.

According to the Daily News, the demonstrators marched from the Council’s head office to a venue where the deputy minister for Local Government, Joel Biggie Matiza, was addressing residents on the evictions. But Matiza reportedly stood his ground and insisted the demolitions would continue.

In a statement on Thursday, the Heal Zimbabwe Trust said: “The demolition of structures, such as informal business which have become a source of income for many, goes against the empowerment drive which the same Government talks about.”

The group blasted the Ministry of Local Government and Chombo for spearheading the demolitions, saying: “The directive reminds Zimbabweans and the world at large, of the infamous Operation Murambatsvina that took place in 2005 at the instigation of the Government”.

The 2005 campaign displaced nearly one million people, destroying businesses, churches, orphanages and clinics. Heal Zimbabwe said they “castigate in the strongest of terms the abrupt manner in which the process intends to proceed with no clear alternative plan”.

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