Mugabe plans fresh home demolitions

HARARE - The Zimbabwe government is planning fresh home demolitions, just a little over a year after a similar campaign to destroy shantytowns and city backyard cottages left at least 700 000 people without shelter or means of livelihood.
The government in May last year and weeks after controvers

ially winning a key general election, ordered the police and army to demolish thousands of backyard cottages, shantytowns and informal business kiosks, in a campaign President Robert Mugabe said was necessary to smash crime and to restore the beauty of Zimbabwe’s cities.
In addition to those left homeless, another 2.4 million people were indirectly affected by the military-style demolition exercise to bring the total number of victims to about three million or a quarter of Zimbabwe’s 12 million people.
Authoritative sources told ZimOnline that Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, who oversaw last year’s widely-condemned demolition exercise, had set up a task force comprising officials from his department and the police to lay out the groundwork for a new offensive against slum dwellers and informal traders.
“There is some kind of a brigade being set up within the police specifically for that mission (to carry out demolitions),” said a senior official in the Ministry of Local Government, who did not want to be named because he did not have clearance from Chombo to speak to the Press.
“New illegal structures have come up since Operation Murambatsvina (the official codename for last year’s clean-up campaign. We will target these structures that have sprouted up and others that somehow survived the first Murambatsvina,” said the official.
Chombo confirmed the government was planning new home demolitions but said these would be on a much smaller scale than Murambatsvina.
He said: “It is not Murambatsvina. But the spirit of Murambatsvina should not die. To ensure that we don’t reverse the gains of Murambatsvina we will do regular follow-ups. We cannot just watch while chaos prevails and people build wherever they want.”
The government, bowing to international pressure after the home demolitions, announced in August last year that it was launching a new re-construction programme to build houses for people whose homes it had destroyed.
But only a handful of houses have been built because the government – which is also battling to raise cash to import food, electricity and fuel among other key national requirements – did not have resources.
And thousands of homeless families have tracked back to the sites of their former shantytowns to rebuild their shacks after the government failed to provide the homes it promised under the new home building exercise dubbed Operation Garikayi/Hlani kuhle or Operation Live Well.
Rodrick Chinyau, who appeared to be the leader of about 30 families squatting in Epworth near Harare, said: “We have nowhere to go. The government destroyed our houses last year forcing us to come here. The number of people here is increasing everyday and this will be the case until we get decent accommodation.”
Chinyau however said officials from Chombo’s department had visited the settlement and gave the families up to the end of this week to vacate or be forcibly removed. – ZimOnline

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