HUMAN rights lawyers yesterday condemned the ongoing demolition of illegal structures in Harare and gave Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo a 72-hour ultimatum within which to furnish them with statistics on the number of families likely to be affected by the blitz.
BY STAFF REPORTER
This follows the demolition of illegal structures by the Ruwa Town Board following orders by Chombo.
The crackdown came hardly 24 hours after Chombo’s deputy Joel Biggie Matiza warned Chitungwiza residents that the exercise would be rolled out in all urban centres.
In a letter, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Chombo had no legal right to demolish people’s properties.
Part of the letter reads: “As a human rights organisation, and acting in the public interest, we are concerned that, in doing what you propose to do, will not only violate the Constitution, but impair the rule of law.”
“We, therefore, request that you provide us with the following information: How many households will be affected, in particular how many children will be rendered without shelter? What will be the duration of the notice period given to the affected persons? And in what form shall the notice be?”
Heal Zimbabwe Trust also said the demolitions were a threat to humanity.
Bishop Anselmo Magaya, spokesperson of Heal Zimbabwe, said : “Operation Restore Order, while purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures and to clamp down on alleged illicit activities, was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering, and, in repeated cases, with disregard to several provisions of national and international legal frameworks.”
Both Chombo and Matiza were unreachable for comment.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Ruwa residents whose tuckshops were destroyed by council bulldozers on Wednesday have accused government of robbing them of their source of livelihood and turned them destitutes.
Ruwa councillors have since distanced themselves from the demolitions.
In a joint statement yesterday, the Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA) said: “When the State fails to create enough jobs or housing for its citizens in both rural and urban areas, people are pushed against the wall, and the construction of the so-called illegal structures becomes a necessity rather than a norm.
“Demolition of houses provides a fertile ground for conflict in the community and to that end there is need to avert unwanted situations through dialogue or provision of a reparations scheme.”