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  • Illegal settlements, government urged to address housing shortages
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    November 08
    , 2013

    View this article on the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition website

    Civil society has called for a sustainable solution to the housing crisis in urban areas amid relentless post-election threats by the government to demolish the illegal housing settlements that mushroomed without the sanction of the relevant local governance authorities.

    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Spokesperson Thabani Nyoni said demolitions would not solve the problem of illegal settlements because demolitions would not address the issue of urban housing shortages.

    “We need to understand that illegal settlements are a problem that is related to shortages of housing and increase in urban populations,” Nyoni said. “The problem is with policy not people.

    “The problem is also related to lack of development and opportunities in rural areas which has caused unmitigated rural to urban migration.”

    In June 2005, the Zimbabwean government carried out a similar exercise called Operation Murambatsvina, which saw the demolition of illegal urban settlements countrywide, and left thousands destitute during a cold winter season.

    The exercise was condemned as a violation of human rights by the United Nations (UN) after it sent a special rapporteur Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka to assess the repercussions.

    After the Operation Murambatsvina, and its condemnation by the international community as an attack on the rights of the poor, government carried out a corrective exercise called Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle to resettle the displaced people.

    Some of the schemes have been beset with challenges, which show lack of planning like overcrowded houses and an encroaching cemetery at the Hopley Farm settlement, where graves have come into the shadows of houses on the outskirts of Harare.

    Ironically inside Harare, the Joshua Nkomo Housing Scheme started under the same operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle was built on land not serviced by council, making it an illegal settlement.

    Nyoni said the resurgent need to demolish illegal settlements was a sign of failure by the government of Zimbabwe to provide a sustainable solution after the last encounter with the problem about a decade ago.

    “The government claimed they did Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle to settle people, and address housing shortages,” Nyoni said. “This plan is an admission that the government has failed to address the housing problem.

    “What is shocking though is that the government through demolishing illegal settlements will be actually rewarding those who failed to plan, and punishing the victims.

    “We call upon the government to accept responsibility for its failure and come up with a sustainable and humane framework of addressing illegal settlements and the housing problem.”

    Simbarashe Moyo, the chairman of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), said the authorities that are planning the demolitions should have foresight about where the displaced people will go, and must be aware of the constitutional right of everyone, including the illegal settlers to shelter.

    “As these policy makers make these proposals they have to be cognizant of the constitutional right to shelter that each citizen of this country enjoys by virtue of being a Zimbabwean,” Moyo said. “It does not matter whether one is residing in a structure deemed illegal.

    “Any plan to evict that person must also be able to consider where that person is supposed to go.”

    Moyo said illegal housing structures were a result of deeper issues and part of a bigger picture.

    “Illegal structures do not suddenly crop up somewhere somehow, there is the corrupt hand of politicians and incompetence of policy makers,” Moyo said. “The emergence of illegal housing units is caused by many factors ranging from corruption, absence of proper planning and supply being overtaken by demand as well as political expedience.”

    In the recent proliferation of illegal settlements, politicians have been accused of parceling land to supporters without councils’ approval ahead of the harmonized elections held in July.

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