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  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • Government halts demolitions
    The Herald (Zimbabwe)
    July 16, 2005

    THE demolition of illegal structures under Operation Murambatsvina has been temporarily suspended with Government giving owners of such structures 10 working days — starting on Monday — to regularise them with council.

    In the same vein, operators of unlicenced business ventures — including those who have converted their homes into offices or for other purposes — should promptly have them licenced and take immediate steps to pay the relevant taxes with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

    Speaking at a Press conference in Harare last night, Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Minister Cde Ignatius Chombo said failure to do so would result in severe penalties.

    "It has come to our attention that there are some illegal structures in low-density suburbs. Owners of such buildings will be given 10 working days within which to regularise their structures,’’ said Cde Chombo.

    He said councils had been given instructions to expedite the regularisation process so that it does not exceed 48 hours at the most.

    The suspension came in the wake of complaints by residents in low-density suburbs that council officials were failing to locate copies of plans of their houses while plan approvals were taking too long.

    Cde Chombo said people who had their illegal houses demolished and have not been offered stands should register with their local authorities or with Government immediately so that they are allocated stands under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle.

    Before his announcement, many house owners in Harare’s low-density suburbs had continued pulling down illegal structures on their properties.

    However, only a few illegal structures such as chicken runs and kiosks had been erected in the more upmarket Greendale, Hillside, Eastlea, Highlands and Chisipite suburbs.

    According to city by-laws, one can keep a maximum of 25 chickens per household in a residential area.

    Panic gripped Harare’s low density suburbs on Monday with people thronging council offices to get copies of their house plans so as to regularise other structures on their properties as police went around advising residents of the impending clean-up operation.

    However, some residents said that having bought their properties way back in the 1950s and 1960s, there was no way they could get the required plans because the people who had sold them the houses had left the country many years ago, making it practically impossible to trace them.

    Mr Charles Mamhenge of Mount Pleasant said he bought his property — a five-bedroomed house with a four-roomed cottage and a garage — from a white couple which has since emigrated.

    "The couple left the country shortly afterwards and at the time I bought the house, my main concern was title deeds and not so much about the plan of the house," he said.

    Mr Mamhenge said efforts to locate the plan at the City of Harare’s Shepperton House offices have proved fruitless.

    "They have been looking for the plan since last week and there is no hope of finding it considering the confusion reigning there," he said.

    Mr Leonard Nyamutsamba said city fathers should be made aware of the historical background to the problem regarding plans.

    "We understand the need to regularise structures, but it is important for those overseeing the demolishing of illegal structures to be made aware that there are other houses, especially those bought in the 1950s, that have no plans. They were constructed in another era with servants’ quarters," Mr Nyamutsamba said.

    He said many people who have failed to present plans for their houses have had no time to explain their predicament and had certain areas of their houses deemed as illegal extensions demolished.

    "We would like to appeal to the Government to closely look into these complications pertaining to the unavailability of plans for some houses and other structures found on such premises," Mr Nyamutsamba said.

    City of Harare spokesperson Mr Leslie Gwindi said the city council has plans for all houses built after 1960.

    "We have all the plans and the issue here is not about having title deeds, but having the plans for houses they are staying in and regularising any other structures," Mr Gwindi said.

    The clean-up — initiated by the Government at the end of May — has seen unauthorised structures in high-density suburbs being demolished.

    Illegally constructed home industries were not spared either.

    Construction of such facilities and houses in designated places is currently underway.

    Government is undertaking a massive housing project with a view to accommodating people who have been affected by the clean-up operation so far.

    At least 9 958 residential building stands were allocated at Whitecliff Farm alone.

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