By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
06 May 2014
The Umguza Rural District Council has resumed the destruction of the Reigate Compound, in defiance of a High Court order barring the local authority from doing so.
The demolitions started in November last year, only to be stopped by the High Court within two days following an application by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on behalf of the residents.
Soon after the order was issued, the destruction commenced again and during that time the council removed the roofing on the public toilets. This was seen as a plan designed to make living at the compound uncomfortable for residents. But the destruction was stopped after the residents and council entered into out of court negotiations on how to move forward on the issue.
It was the original intention of the residents to file a contempt of court application against the council but the move was shelved pending the negotiations. But residents said the council has once again started destroying structures at the compound. Residents said people who go on holiday return to find their houses razed down.
SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme said the demolitions intensified last Friday and were still continuing by Tuesday this week.
He added: ‘The council has been negotiating in bad faith. They want to achieve their primary goal of forcing everybody out of the compound in a smart way. In other words, they want to remain in defiance of the court order but without being taken to court.’
About 300 families stand to be rendered homeless if the compound is finally destroyed. The council wants to turn the Reigate area into a residential suburb and has reportedly started selling some stands. But the residents argue that the council is violating their right to shelter because they have lived in the compound close to 30 years, paying rentals to the local authority.
From Harare, our correspondent Simon Muchemwa reports that the city council has started demolishing the so-called illegal structures which were built by the ZANU PF youths ahead of the 2013 elections. These youths grabbed the land to start their businesses, with the help of the then youth minister Saviour Kasukuwere. Muchemwa said scores of Zanu PF found themselves on the streets as from Wednesday last week.
Destroying the livelihoods of poor people in the name of face lifting the area is the ZANU PF government’s custom. Municipal police officers routinely raid poor vendors and confiscate their wares. Many vendors, who are often widows, lose their entire savings in the process.
The height of this practice was in 2005 when the government suddenly went on a nationwide destruction of poor people’s dwellings and tuck shops. Dubbed Murambatsvina (drive out rubbish) the exercise affected an estimated 2 million people.
Public displeasure at such practices was demonstrated earlier this year when vendors ran amok and beat the Bulawayo municipal police.