Drama as Bulawayo council evicts flat tenants

THERE was chaos in the central business district yesterday morning as Bulawayo City Council officials and police moved in to evict more than 50 tenants from a dilapidated block of flats the local authority deems inhabitable.

Report by Pamela Mhlanga

On Tuesday the tenants at Marvel Court, opposite the Bulawayo Centre along Main Street, had been given up to yesterday to move out of the flats.

However, some defiant tenants had indicated the previous day that they would resist the eviction.

But when NewsDay arrived at the block of flats, council officials and the police were moving from door-to-door, notifying the tenants that they were being evicted and should immediately pack their belongings and be out in 30 minutes, at the expiry the officials would lock up the premises.

The visibly-shaken tenants, some on the verge of tears, said they were shocked at the way council had moved in to evict them, and that they did not expect an early morning raid.

“I was clearly not ready for this,” a tenant, who only identified himself as Rocky, said. “I am actually shocked by the council’s sudden move to evict us as we only saw in the paper that they were planning to remove us. We did not see the notice.”

Another tenant said the move was unfair as she had only heard yesterday that the tenants were going to be evicted from the premises.

“I do not understand how council can say we are failing to maintain the flats because as far as I am concerned we are trying all means to take care of the building,” she said.

“If it were you and your families being evicted in such a way, how would you feel?” the tenant challenged the forceful council officials.

One city council official told the tenants they were given the first notice 10 years ago.

“The way forward is to just pack your belongings and leave the premises. There is no other way, we are just doing our duty,” the official said.

“Perhaps there was not enough communication between the owner of the building and the tenants as the council had notified the owner and he was supposed to tell the tenants.”

A Zanu PF district chairperson, George Chiyangwa, tried to intervene on behalf of the tenants, saying the city council should have afforded the occupants more time before evicting them.

“I do not like what is happening here, all the indiscipline and noise being created as the tenants are being unfairly evicted from the premises,” he said.

The eviction comes as the new owners of the building, the Church of Scientology, are preparing to move in after giving the previous tenants six months’ notice to vacate the building.