EIGHTEEN families in Reigate, a few kilometres outside Bulawayo, have been rendered homeless after Umguza Rural District Council (RDC) razed homes they occupied for more than 20 years.
BY NKULULEKO SIBANDA
Although officials from the council were not readily available for comment yesterday, some of the affected residents told NewsDay that they had been raided by the authority without prior warning.
When the NewsDay crew arrived at the area, rubble and property was strewn all over the place as shocked residents pondered the next move.
The said school-going children, whose families have been affected, were being housed at some homes nearby to enable them to attend school.
Dingani Ndlovu (67) told NewsDay he had lived in the area since 1988.
“I worked for the Umguza RDC for 27 years. I joined the council in 1988 and retired in 2016.
“Since that time, I have been paying rentals to the council for the stand on which my house was built. I have never stayed here for free. I had been advised by council that since I was paying rentals, this stand would become mine.
I was shocked when I was told that I had to vacate, but there were no reasons given,” Ndlovu said, adding that some of the residents had occupied houses that had been left by former council workers who had since moved on.
“Some of the people here occupied these houses after buying them. These were houses that council employees sold to the new occupants – something the council blessed because it was realising revenue from the occupants,” Ndlovu added.
Another affected villager, Simangaliphi Ncube said there had been efforts by the council to evict the residents without success.
“We have been fighting legal battles with the council for some years now. They tried to evict us earlier, but they were stopped by the High Court after we obtained an order against the eviction.
“Despite that intention, we have been paying monthly rentals to the council, in some cases as much as $220 a month. We were surprised to be told that we have to leave despite all the money we have paid to these people,” Ncube said, revealing that council had misled them into believing they would assume full ownership under a home scheme after paying rentals for more than 10 years.
“Council told us that the home ownership scheme would kick in after some 10 years. Instead of processing that home ownership, we saw council officials and vehicles coming to destroy our houses and we wondered why the sudden change of heart,” Ncube said.
Frank Moyo, who was also affected by the demolitions, said the move to evict them was illegal as there was no court order giving council the right to evict them.
“When these council people came here, they brought us a paper written Messenger of Court. They refused to show us the copy, but said the matter had been finalised and we had to leave. Unfortunately, we are not leaving this place with nowhere else to go. The council itself has to find us alternative accommodation,” he added.