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Armed residents block demolitions

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HARARE City Council was last night forced to suspend its planned demolition of illegal structures in Glen Norah suburb after militant residents threatened to fight back and block the exercise.

STAFF REPORTERS

The development came as the High Court ordered the local authority to stop the demolition of illegal business structures built by members of the Rights of Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe (RDPZ) in and around the city centre.

The situation in Glen Norah was tense and by 5pm, groups of residents armed with clubs, knobkerries and various other weapons had gathered at various sites targeted for demolition in Glen Norah B, vowing to fight back.

“We will fight for shelter. It’s inhumane for them to do this to us and we can’t watch while it happens. We have built houses here and they can’t just raze them down like that. We are ready for them,” said a resident who declined to be named.

However, a senior council official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the planned demolitions had been hastily shelved despite expiry of a 48-hour ultimatum given to the residents earlier on.

Manyenyeni could not be reached for comment.

In a related development, High Court judge Justice Mary Matanda-Moyo had earlier ordered the local authority to stop the demolition of illegal business structures built by members of RDPZ in and around the city centre.

Through their lawyer Norman Mugiya, people living with disabilities said the demolition of their market stalls breached their constitutional rights and should be stopped forthwith.

Justice Matanda-Moyo’s order read: “The respondents are interdicted from demolishing and evicting the applicants from 4th Street Bus Terminus site, Charge Office site and Beatrice Roundabout site until the finalisation of the High Court matter.”

She ordered council authorities and police to return all seized wares within 48 hours and stop threatening vendors.

The ruling came as the Harare Metropolitan Residents’ Forum (HamRef) had petitioned President Robert Mugabe and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri to stop the ongoing council blitz targeting illegal houses built in Harare, Chitungwiza and Epworth.

In his petition on behalf of Harare residents, HamRef co-chairperson Simbarashe Moyo demanded the arrest of council officials who authorised the demolition of houses in Chitungwiza and Epworth, saying the blitz was ultra vires (beyond the power authorised by) a court order barring such action.

“We have written a letter to the Commissioner-General instructing him to arrest council officials for acting in contempt of court. We have also petitioned the Head of State and gave him seven days to respond,” he said.

He said the Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust has also made a report at St Mary’s Police Station (Case Number HC5231/14) following the destruction of the houses around midnight between Thursday and Friday last week.

“We sincerely implore your esteemed office to urgently make intervention and make sure these people are arrested for contempt of court,” reads the letter to Chihuri in part.

The demolitions, which were carried out at night with the assistance of anti-riot police, left hundreds of Epworth and Chitungwiza families homeless.

The police anti-riot squad was on Friday forced to fire warning shots into the air to disperse angry residents who were resisting eviction from their homes in Epworth.

In Chitungwiza, a nearly completed new shopping complex in St Mary’s suburb was razed to the ground while hundreds of families were left without shelter after council bulldozers demolished their houses.

Meanwhile, MDC Renewal Team secretary-general Tendai Biti has described as “callous, ruthless and heartless” the ongoing housing demolitions taking place in Epworth and Chitungwiza.

Biti said this while touring and assessing the damage that has left thousands of families homeless and stranded after the town authorities demolished houses in the two areas.

“These demolitions are callous, ruthless and heartless. The demolitions are politically motivated against perceived MDC members and against the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” Biti said.

Harare mayor Bernard

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