Harare City Council yesterday demolished more than 15 houses and cottages along Airport Road ahead of President Robert Mugabe’s return today from Asia, after the veteran ruler had long expressed his disquiet over the settlement.
BY MOSES MATENGA /RICHARD CHIDZA
Last year, Mugabe ordered that settlers along Airport Road should be removed, as they were an eyesore and painted a bad picture about the country and yesterday’s demolitions were conspicuous as they came a day before his return from his month-long holiday.
Though, Harare South MP and Harare Zanu PF commissar Shadreck Mashayamombe was not immediately available for comment on the matter, council spokesperson Michael Chideme said the demolitions were in line with Zimbabwe’s brand.
“It’s a national response to brand Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Those houses were wrongly sited. We can’t have houses close to the airport and along the major gateway to Zimbabwe.”
Mugabe last year quizzed Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and his Transport counterpart Joram Gumbo over the existence of the illegal settlement during the official opening of the Airport Road.
He said the settlement tarnished the image of the country.
“What is that being seen from here? You cannot do that because visitors pass through here. People settled here should leave,” Mugabe said about the houses then.
NewsDay witnessed the demolitions yesterday with victims openly weeping and expressing anger at Zanu PF for misleading them.
It emerged that several senior party officials were involved in the settlement and had tried to assure the victims that their houses would not be demolished.
One of the affected houses belonged to a Nigerian national, who said he had engaged government on the matter only last week.
“We engaged government on the matter and we were told by a senior official that they were only reading about the demolitions in the newspapers. They came without giving us notices,” he said without naming the said government official.
A Zanu PF official who declined to be named said: “The President said the houses should be demolished and we are following an order from the highest office. In Zanu PF we take orders from our superiors.”
Several people were seen driving their posh cars into the settlement to cart their furniture away to unknown destinations.
More than 1 000 houses have so far been demolished in Harare as the city strives to get rid of illegal settlements.
Meanwhile, Mugabe flies back home today and walks directly into a raging inferno as his administration teeters on the brink due to Zanu PF internal fights.
While the President’s spokesperson, George Charamba, could not be reached for comment, Transport minister Gumbo unwittingly disclosed that Mugabe would arrive today.
“We are aware that you do not have a board,” he said at a familirisation tour of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe offices at the airport, “but I can assure you that, with His Excellency the President (Mugabe) arriving tomorrow (today), soon we should be able to announce a new board for you.”
Mugabe’s government has virtually defaulted on its promise to pay civil servants bonuses, leaving the veteran leader with egg on his face after his declaration last April that government would have to pay because a bonus was “a right”.
Early this week, Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira told NewsDay that government remained committed to paying civil servants bonuses, but was unsure when they money would be made available.