THE saga surrounding the recent demolition of hundreds of illegal structures along Airport Road in Harare has taken a new twist, with the Zanu PF government admitting, in writing, that it sanctioned the illegal settlement way back in 2006 to achieve certain unspecified goals.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Former Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo has revealed in a letter dated November 28, 2012, addressed to the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda.
In the letter, Chombo acknowledged allocating land to Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative, saying “the exigent dictates of the situation obtaining then, made it expedient to the acting director of housing and State land management to issue out an offer letter for the said co-operative”.
The houses, some already complete, were razed down last month on President Robert Mugabe’s orders after he described the structures as unsightingly to tourists travelling to and from the airport.
Chombo, in the letter, also admitted that government intended to later remove the co-operative members from the site after achieving the unspecified goal and offer them compensation.
Part of the letter obtained by NewsDay reads: “The ministry’s intention is not to leave the current members of Nyikavanhu Housing Co-Operative in the cold. We are in the process of identifying appropriate alternative piece of land in the southern areas of Harare for their relocation.
“Again, we realised that while the ministry was still going on through the procedures of land acquisition, the co-operative went ahead to hire a consultant, town planner, to design the remainder of subdivision E of Arlington Estate for housing and other uses.
“This should have obviously created a level of expenditure on the part of the members towards the layout designs. The ministry, thus commits itself to make arrangements to allocate stands to members of Nyikavanhu Housing Co-operative on a scheme that shall have been internally designed to offset the related costs incurred to date.”
The letter now forms part of the ministry’s notice of opposition to a court application filed by the affected residents who have taken both government and Harare City Council to court demanding compensation for lost property.
The government, in its heads of argument claims that the structures were illegal.
Meanwhile, opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has ordered his party councillors not to participate in the demolition exercise, describing it as inhuman.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare last Friday, Tsvangirai said: “Most of these settlements now being demolished were unplanned dwellings encouraged by Zanu PF itself, which the same government is now demolishing. On our part, we have instructed our local authorities to make sure that they do the humane thing, which is to relocate these stranded and homeless people to properly sanctioned areas.”