|14. August 2015
Crackdown on illegal settlements to accelerate
Government will accelerate the demolition of illegal structures countrywide in a massive operation murambatsvina-style crackdown raging on in Harare in the last few weeks.
The latest operation is being spearheaded by local authorities and the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing assisted by a special Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) unit which has been specifically set up for the purpose.
The expeditious crackdown, which is likely to set government on collision course with humanitarian organisations, was announced at a media briefing in Harare on Thursday. The briefing was co-addressed by acting City of Harare Town Clerk, Josephine Ncube, ZRP national spokesperson, Charity Charamba and director of policy planning and implementation in the Local Government, Nathan Nkomo.
This follows a huge outcry over an unprecedented influx of land barons who have invaded both municipal and State land, parcelling out residential stands illegally to unsuspecting home seekers, fleecing them of their hard-earned cash in the process.
The City of Harare has so far demolished hundreds of houses, including over 200 pulled down in the high density suburb of Budiriro on Wednesday alone. The clean-up is seen by many as a direct response to Local Government Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere’s stern warning that he would deal with the local authorities if they fail to restore order in their areas of jurisdiction. Ironically, the press briefing came only a few hours after Kasukuwere flexed his muscles, firing two councillors and suspending 13 others in Gweru.
Ncube said the City of Harare would accelerate the crackdown in the next few days. “We are committed to bringing order in Harare and to restore the invaded land to its planned use,” she said, adding: “the land we are talking about was planned for schools, clinics, recreational facilities and business centres while some of it is unsuitable for construction work. Wetlands and paddocks were invaded and parcelled out as housing land.” “The message that should be heard out loudly and clearly is that Harare City Council and the Ministry of Local Government are the only land authorities in Harare. As such, no one else has the mandate to distribute land for any purpose. Therefore the city will not entertain people who settle occupy municipal land without consent. Anyone who chooses to build without council approval would be throwing their investment down the drain,” she said.
Charamba said a special police unit has been set up to assist both the local authorities and government, mainly to arrest land barons.
“As the police, we come in where crime has been committed. In this case, people have been illegally allocating land and we are going to arrest everyone involved, even if they are government and council officials, no one will be spared. We are also appealing to members of the public and all those who have been swindled by land barons to report to the nearest police station so that we can arrest the offenders,” she said.
Nkomo said the ministry would be working closely with local authorities and the police to restore order. “My presence here is a show of solidarity with local authorities. This programme shall be rolled out around the country as we move to restore order,” he said.
Ten years ago, government courted international backlash when it launched a massive clean-up campaign which displaced about 700 000 people according to a United Nations commission report.
(Financial Gazette, Harare)