Scores of people in Chitungwiza have been kicked out of their homes allegedly at the instigation of Zanu PF House of Assembly member for Chitungwiza South, Christopher Chigumba.
Nine families have so far been evicted and have for the past two weeks been sleeping in the open. At least 300 other families face eviction.
At the centre of the wrangle is Zano Remba Housing
Co-operative which members claim rightfully owns the land on which they built their homes. But Chigumba, their MP, claims the land belongs to him personally although all along he had been believed to be the patron of the co-operative.
Zimbabwe will remember the pain wrought on urban dwellers in May 2005 in what infamously became known as Operation Murambatsvina. More than 700 000 people were violently evicted from their homes disrupting their children’s learning and taking away the infirm from treatment programmes.
Murambatsvina was roundly condemned round the world as a crime against humanity because shelter is a basic human right.
To see, nine years later, people being subjected to the same inhuman treatment, is shocking to say the least.
What is interesting in the latest event is that the evictees and the evictor are accusing each other of dishonesty. The evictees have evidence in the form of receipts to prove they have been paying money to the co-operative from as way back as 2004. The evictor claims that he is dealing with crooks because the land in question is his personal possession which he must develop as he wishes.
The truth has to be established beyond doubt. It would seem the evictees have every right to be where they are considering the history of the co-operative and the documents they hold.
The evictor, Chigumba, has to clarify to the evictees, and the world, at what material time the land which was apparently allocated to the co-operative by the town council at the insistence of former Member of Parliament for the area, Witness Mangwende, became his personal project as he claims.
The authorities, and ordinary citizens, should be wary of powerful individuals, particularly ruling party politicians who use their political muscle to dispossess the weak of property that rightly belongs to them.
While government has instituted investigations into some of the illegal land deals in and around Harare, it would seem the tendency is to protect the powerful rather than the weak. This is deplorable especially when the powerful politicians have been using the sensitive issue of stands to win votes from the poor. Whatever the case might be, government should, as a rule of thumb, protect the poor.
Many families around the country are facing similar evictions, but the Chigumba case ought to be the test case that will guide the war between land barons and home-seekers.