Illegal structures resurface in Mbare

Seven years on from the destruction of countless properties in the Zanu (PF)’s government’s Operation Murambatsvina Harare’s oldest suburb, Mbare, has seen the proliferation of outbuildings, wooden and metal shanties and makeshift business structures.

Despite their bitter memories of Operation Murambatsvina, residents of Mbare are throwing caution to the wind.
Despite their bitter memories of Operation Murambatsvina, residents of Mbare are throwing caution to the wind.

The “clean-up” operation, carried out during the winter of 2005, displaced around 700 000 people, according to official UN figures. Many more had their livelihoods destroyed. The demand for housing and business space is growing as urban migration continues unabated, and, despite their bitter memories, residents of Mbare are throwing caution to the wind.

“We have undertaken a snap survey and established in Mbare how illegal tuck shops, shebeens, illegal house extensions and other unauthorised commercial activities have taken root, eroding whatever gains Operation Murambatsvina had made with regard to urban planning.There must be other means of addressing the housing problem than resorting to such practices,” said Precious Shumba, the coordinator of the Harare Residents Trust.

HRT is a non-profit organisation that lobbies for effective representation of residents of Harare Metropolitan Province on the provision of quality services by the local authority and other public service providers.

Social commentator, Douglas Chivandire, said Mbare was attractive to many low income fortune seekers because of the hive of activity in the area and called for detailed research on the factors that pulled people to the suburb.

He urged the authorities to take action to decongest the suburb and implement proper urban planning to maximise the entrepreneurial spirit and endeavours of the people while maintaining orderly development. He said the situation was extremely complex.

“There is a disconnection of intent and purpose between the Harare City Council and the Mbare residents. The residents want to get on with their lives as best they can, while the council is advocating greater control over development, which is clearly not in tandem with what’s on the ground,” he said.

“The council should explain the benefits of decongesting Mbare to the residents so that they take it upon themselves to make sure they monitor each other. This will be cheaper for the City Council and will provide a long lasting solution to the problem,” said Sesel Zvidzai, the Deputy Minister of Local Government.

Zvidzai discouraged the use of force as a means to decongest Mbare or any other suburb and called for improved communication between residents and the local authority.

Reason Majecha, an Mbare resident, explained the problem from his point of view. “The rate of unemployment is too high and most of us are failing to secure jobs in the formal sector, yet we have families to look and medical and education fees to worry about.Most of us are wallowing in abject poverty and we are looking for accommodation from senior citizens who are subletting their illegally extended houses so that we go and work at Mupedzanhamo and the vegetable market,” he said.

Majecha accused council employees of accepting bribes from residents engaged in illegal activities.

Clement Chingombe, the Councillor for Ward 12 in Mbare, blamed the state of the economy for the proliferation of the illegal structures, saying poverty and unemployment were driving the trend.

“People in Mbare use political muscle to operate from wherever they please. Therefore, to control illegal structures in Mbare is problematic. We also face problems in dealing with the Chipangano members, who seem to be above the law,” he said.

Chipangano is an infamous militia outfit linked to Zanu (PF) and notorious for violent and corrupt activities.

A Harare lawyer, Rightman Chikwari, said any future demolition orders must be issued in compliance with the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Act 11 (1) that prohibits forced evictions without adequate alternatives.

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