Act with sympathy, empathy

It is high time that some officials become answerable for some of the suffering that has resulted from the demolition of houses deemed as having been built on undesignated land.

This has caused untold suffering of these people who spent their hard-earned cash to build dream houses.

Some had built these homes using loans they got from banks and to render such people homeless is the worst thing a government can do to its citizens.

This is in reference to the houses that were razed down along Airport Road after President Robert Mugabe described them as an eyesore.

Surely, someone must have sanctioned development of those beautiful mansions, which I think had improved the landscape of that area.

I admired some of the houses because they were modern designs as opposed to the old houses along that road that need extensive refurbishment.

Harare City Council (HCC) is itself playing double standards because I am aware of some of its buildings in the capital city that are not worth letting and should be destroyed completely.

There is one building along Luck Street in the Kopje areas that has been turned into a dumping site, where street kids have also turned it into a haven of all activities, including excreting in the double-storey building.


The stench from there is unbearable, especially now that the rains have started falling and fermenting the dirt dumped there.

Next to this building is yet another building, which is supposedly a HCC structure, which is used for various business activities, including tailoring, mechanical workshops and an eating house.

Why is council allowing such decay in the capital? Are they waiting for President to drive through that road before they take action?

These are buildings they have failed to renovate and yet the authority is busy destroying well-built houses.

I find this reactive behaviour sickening and degrading because where will these people now find refuge after having lost these well-built houses, which they spent fortunes on?

There is no way these people could have gained access to this land without authority and there is no way they can be described as squatters.

The letters they have appear authentic and reportedly emanated from government offices and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz), which authorised Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative members to build houses at Arlington Estate that was initially earmarked for the expansion of Harare International Airport.

I am reliably informed that several government officials have been sucked into the Arlington Estate saga and recent media reports indicate that the letters were signed by the Harare provincial administrator Alfred Tome, who is said to have legally offered this land to Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative to develop houses.

But alas, that office has distanced itself from this saga although the letters are signed and also date-stamped.

Caaz has also distanced itself from the letter, which cleared the sub-division of the land for residential development.

Surely these property owners did not just wake up and decide to build houses on such a strategic area without a go-ahead.

And why were they not stopped when they had just started clearing the land? Why are we being fooled by authorities and allowing ordinary hard-working citizens to suffer like this?

Does it mean that these homes just sprouted at the flash of a magic wand?

Someone somewhere knows what was happening at Arlington Estate and elsewhere in places like Budiriro, where people were also left homeless after bulldozers razed their houses down.

Why is HCC not proactive in its operations and only wait when a problem has escalated to such lengths?

Is council aware that this has cost some people their lives? What will happen to families who now have no roof over their heads?

What of the little children and women who are most vulnerable to such disastrous measures?

The Airport Road houses were done in an orderly manner with no weird or outside unpleasant makeshift structures in sight. So was the action prompted by the President’s comments?

Does HCC have social workers? Why create a problem where there is already a problem? And will the demolition of these structures solve the problems because there are already so many of them in and around Harare?

My heart goes out to all these families because this action is one of the cruellest and heartless measures that are not different to what happened during the Murambatsvina/Clean Up Operation of 2005.

Some elderly people died from heart attacks that time when their only sources of income from the “unpleasant” structures were pulled down, but history is repeating itself.

I hope someone is doing a follow up on the affected families and see what will become of them.

Shelter is a basic human right and what has happened is a clear indication that the powers-that-be do not care about its people.

Jobs have been lost through the infamous July 17 Supreme Court ruling, and when residents try to eke a living through other means, city authorities whip them out of business in the name of wanting to keep Harare clean.

Where will residents get money to pay rates and other utility bills, I wonder when experts say nearly 92% of able-bodied people are out of employment?

I would like to urge the President to visit all parts of the city to see for himself how unsightly building run by HCC are, including Trafalgar Court, which has had no working elevators for years.

Something has to be done at Town House, as councillors seem to be relaxed, sitting waiting for a code-named operation to act.

The Local Government minister should root out rot in this council and act with sympathy, empathy and compassion for the suffering majority unemployed Harare residents.


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