SIX houses at different levels of construction including one belonging to a headman in Dema, Seke, were razed to the ground yesterday by Manyame Rural District Council (MRDC) signifying the beginning of government crackdown on houses allegedly built on illegal land.
Villagers affected and others whose structures were yet to be affected were fuming after two front-end loaders were used to destroy the houses.
They described the move as an act of cruelty and a sign of the government’s insincerity in addressing the plight of the poor and homeless.
One of the victims, headman Michael Dzikiti said the demolitions were in bad taste and a war against poor people, born and bred in the area.
“If my house is destroyed like this without my knowledge, how will my subjects respect me? The Village Act is clear on how we should be respected, but if something like this is done in the village without even my knowledge, it’s sad and regrettable,” Dzikiti said.
Dzikiti’s three-roomed house was razed and the council officials, witnesses said, were not bothered.
Another villager lost his eight-roomed house while one lost his four-roomed house in the demolitions.
Ironically, builders who were making final touches to the houses said their task was to build quickly to enable the house owners to move in.
Another villager, Catherine Ndlovu whose three-roomed house which was at roof level was destroyed said the move was a fight against the poor and defenceless people in the area while leaving culprits free, enjoying the comfort of their homes.
“This is not why we voted Zanu PF. When they came here for their campaigns, they gave us cups of beans and rice and we thought we were together but now, they have turned against us.
“They just came here without notice and targeted houses of those who were not around. They left out houses belonging to police officers and soldiers,” Ndlovu said.
But MRDC chairperson Farirai Guta said they wanted to nip the construction of illegal structures in the bud by destroying only new structures sprouting up after Local Government deputy minister Joel Biggie Matiza’s audit report.
“Did you see them as houses? These are illegal developments that propped up after the audit, so we are implementing a directive from the ministry not to allow the eruption of such structures,” Guta queried.
But angry villagers blamed the government for their woes saying they were destroying their shelter and infringing on their rights.
A resident, Mabasa Dzikiti, said government should do something to save the villagers who were now left with no alternative shelter after investing in building the houses. The demolitions come days after Chitungwiza magistrate Nomsa Sabarauta issued a provisional court order barring the local authority and Glory to Glory Housing Co-operative from proceeding with the planned demolition of houses deemed as unsafe and built on undesignated sites.
Meanwhile, residents of Chitsvatsva village, Seke, have been served with eviction letters and ordered to pay $1 000 as fines for illegally settling in the area, the Harare Metropolitan Residents’ Forum said in a statement last night.
“Council will, with effect from March 1, 2014 embark on an exercise to reorganise the settlement in the village. During the process some structures will be demolished and some households will be relocated in order to create a properly planned settlement,” the association said.
“The structures that are developed on undesignated land will be demolished and beneficiaries will be allocated alternative land to build approved houses. Please note that only those who would have paid their penalty fees ($1 000) in full by the first of March 2014 will benefit from the re-planning and re-allocation exercise. You will be expected to pay regularisation fees and allocation fees before you can be allocated a stand.”