pass businesses onto black people. Such buildings include Elons Court, Zambesia and the Capri. It’s understood that these buildings are used for retail purposes and the owners are no longer getting rentals.
On Tuesday the owner of Elons court, Khalil Gaibe, tried to have the youths evicted. But riot police who showed up at the premises were unable to move them.
“They did not manage because after nearly engaging in physical confrontation, the ZANU PF youth produced a stay of eviction, which is a court document that allows them to stay in the buildings. The ZANU PF youth were arguing they were staying on grounds of indigenisation and that the owner had not made repairs on the buildings and until such time the owner made the repairs they would not move out of the building,” he said.
The Bulawayo property incidents fit into ZANU PF’s strategy of taking over property owned by non-blacks in the name of indigenization, as in the so-called land reform programme. In other places like Harare youths have looted and damaged shops belonging to foreign nationals.
Saungweme said that if the property raids in Bulawayo continue it will hit the city’s business sector, which badly needs investment, extremely hard. “It actually affects Bulawayo a great deal. This is happening after Bulawayo lost 87 companies that are said to have relocated to Harare. All this negatively impacts on the investment and employment of people who live within the city.”
Senior politicians, concerned about the damage this will cause in the city, have condemned the youths conduct and called for it to end.
On Monday Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe reportedly stepped into the crisis, calling for an end to the property invasions. “It is totally unacceptable and that should stop immediately. No one has the right to do that and economically, we cannot grow by grabbing other people’s properties,” she said.
ZAPU has also come out strongly criticising the youths’ conduct, going as far as to say it will defend the business community. “ZAPU is influential in Bulawayo. It issued a press statement last week saying it will protect the properties. A lot of Indians were part of the liberation struggle. Indian families such as the Patels and Narans in Bulawayo, among others, helped ZAPU and its military wing ZIPRA,” Saungweme explained.
Saungweme said the youths are also facing resistance within the ZANU PF Bulawayo committee, especially from senior figures like ZANU PF provincial chairman Isaac Dakamela, who tend to be sympathetic with the business community. He added that the youths will face problems getting the properties registered in their names as the majority of local councillors are MDC members and will not approve their applications.
When contacted for comment Dakamela and ZANU PF Bulawayo Youth Chairman Butho Gatsi both denied the youths were engaged in property grabs, despite the fact they have been witnessed by several people.