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Only Mugabe can make us move, say illegal Zim settlers
Jason Moyo, Mail and Guardian, (SA)
November 15, 2013
urban policy of destroying
illegal homes is being hampered by the fact many of the settlers
are Zanu-PF supporters.
In the slum
last Sunday, word went round that the bulldozers were coming. And
so, under the Zanu-PF flag, members of the Magamba eChimurenga housing
co-operative sat around planning how to defend their homes.
is in Harare South and run by a group of war veterans and Zanu-PF
supporters. If the government carries out its threat to destroy
illegal homes, it is one of the settlements that will be flattened.
Zanu-PF, that would mean throwing out into the cold the many thousands
of supporters who helped it to gain votes in largely pro-opposition
for instance, was the first urban constituency to fall to Zanu-PF
since 2000, after the party stuffed the area with illegal settlers.
put us here; only President [Robert] Mugabe himself will tell us
to move," one man said, to cheers from other residents.
the illegal settlers appeared to be winning the war. Tendai Savanhu,
the deputy lands minister and a senior Zanu-PF official, was on
the back foot at a meeting with the settlers. There would be no
demolitions, he promised.
Whose idea is it anyway?
for Zanu-PF because you know it is the only party that has the people's
welfare at heart. We are there to solve and not create problems,"
were the Movement for Democratic Change's idea, he said.
Harare council report says the city has about 200 "pay schemes"
or co-operatives. But these are only the registered groups.
settlement is one of those built by thousands of "housing co-operatives",
which are mostly Zanu-PF aligned groups that are allocated land,
often without the knowledge of local councils, to build homes for
It is a stark
reminder of the deepening housing crisis, which is worsening as
more workers get thrown out of work and the rural-to-urban migration
increases after repeated droughts.
taken advantage of the poor's thirst for housing, parcelling out
land on the outskirts of Harare and other urban areas to dilute
the opposition's urban support base.
co-operatives spinning out of control
But now it seems
the housing co-operatives are spinning out of control and the government
is unsure how to deal with a problem it created. Although Savanhu
said there will be no demolitions, Deputy Local Government Minister
Joel Matiza said there will be "no going back" on the
clean-up. It is necessary to restore order to urban areas where
some houses have been built illegally over sewer mains, in wetlands
and over power installations.
But the government
appears to be back-pedalling. Local Government Minister Ignatius
Chombo said an audit will be held first before any demolitions
are carried out.
The state media,
which traditionally toes the Zanu-PF line, has warned against the
would be a mirror of 2005. Just after Zanu-PF won a two-thirds majority,
it launched Operation Murambatsvina, which left more than 700 000
homeless and drew United Nations condemnation.
also accused of hitting back at opposition supporters, a charge
the MDC repeated this week.
is now trying to woo urban support. In its election manifesto, it
promises "a vigorous housing programme to address the housing
backlog using financial resources from assets to be unlocked from
the indigenisation of foreign-owned companies".
At least 250
000 houses would be built in the next five years, it promised.
But there are
just a few signs of that so far. Old Mutual, as part of its empowerment
deal, is building 3 000 low-cost homes.
has also signed a deal with the Chinese company Henan Guoji for
the construction of 10 000 houses.
But these projects
do not even make a dent in the huge demand for housing. In Harare,
it has been 20 years since the last major housing project, according
to the city's director of housing, Justin Chivavaya.
put the housing backlog at about 1.2-million, although experts say
the actual figure is much higher.
says it has spent $25-million on new housing developments since
last year. But officials privately say $200-million is needed each
year for the next three years to clear the backlog.
To get the little
new government housing available, civil servants must pay a deposit
of $3 000, but other workers are required to pay $10 000. Few can
afford this and end up paying for illegal stands instead.
destroying slums will only make the housing crisis worse. Philip
Mutoti, the mayor of Chitungwiza, said the government wants his
council to destroy 10 000 illegal homes.
Harare Residents' Association said: "Illegal structures
do not suddenly crop up. There is the corrupt hand of politicians
and incompetence of policymakers."
Lawyers for Human Rights has said demolitions are unconstitutional
as the Constitution
protects citizens from arbitrary eviction.
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