Epworth demolitions set for Mugabe’s birthday

Zanu (PF) Member of Parliament for Epworth, Amos Midzi, has threatened to demolish some 500 ‘illegal houses’ at Ventersburg Estate in his constituency, on February 21 – the day President Robert Mugabe turns 90.

Some of the Epworth houses demolished two years ago.
Some of the Epworth houses demolished two years ago.

Midzi, who is also the Zanu (PF) Provincial Chairperson for Harare, encouraged the targeted families to construct houses in the constituency as he mobilised political support ahead of the July 31 elections.

When reached for comment, he maintained his position that the ‘illegal settlers’ should vacate the estate. “Yes, these people should leave the estate as agreed and the local authority will rrange alternative land for them. They must pack and leave,” Midzi told The Zimbabwean in a telephone interview.

The victims accused Midzi of using them as political tools and dumping them once he won both the legislative seat and the top provincial post. Some of the affected families have been living in the area since the 1990s.

According to bitter party supporters interviewed at the estate, Midzi urged them to defy a High Court Order, which had earlier declared that the land in question was owned by Sunway City (Pvt) LTD.

“During his political campaign, Midzi declared that no Zanu (PF) follower would be evicted from the area since land belonged to the people. He urged us to occupy all available space, including hill tops,” said Peter Mutsvuku.

Midzi made the declarations at a party meeting held at Domboremaziso, ward 6, in March 2013, said Mutsvuku.

When some of the houses where demolished two years ago following a High Court order to that effect, Midzi and some unidentified Zanu (PF) heavyweights allegedly instructed residents to resist and apprehend perpetrators of the demolitions ‘since it was against Zanu (PF) policy’.

“We are disappointed and angered by Midzi’s betrayal of people who voted him into office on the understanding that no demolitions would be carried out. Maybe he intends to celebrate President Robert Mugabe’s birthday through our misery, since the demolitions have been scheduled for that day,” said a visibly angry Mutsvuku.

The targeted families vowed to set up camp with their belongings at the legislator’s Borrowdale residence if their houses are pulled down as threatened. Another victim, Zanu (PF) official Boniface Chitanda, vowed to take Midzi head-on and said he would only relocate his family when government had provided alternative residential land. Chitanda accused Midzi of taking the poor electorate for a ride.

“As bona-fide Zimbabweans, we will not allow anyone to abuse us and relegate the unsuspecting electorate to second class citizens. We need shelter as a right and no one should describe us as squatters in our country of birth,” he said.

Betty Karimupfumbi Mudachiwa, 66, whose house faces demolition, said she was praying for divine intervention for the targeted houses to be spared the destruction. “I am a poor widow with no alternative land to settle if this homestead is demolished by government. Please God intervene,” Mudachiwa said fighting back tears.

Angry victims threatened to wash dirty party linen in public ‘despite previous orders by Zanu (PF) not to speak to the private media and NGOs regarding the demolitions’.

They said Midzi had disowned them ‘as he realised after the elections that the land in question was part of Harare not Epworth’. Having lost faith in Midzi, the affected families have set up a representative committee to engage the Minister for Local Government, Public Works and Housing, Ignatius Chombo, this week.

Chombo also reportedly urged the targeted families to build two-roomed houses on the land in 2012 while government considered their fate.

Officials of the Epworth Residence Development Association, who declined to be identified, said their organisation would defend the rights of targeted families to shelter as provided for in the Constitution.

They vowed to demand proof of land ownership by Sunway City and records of cash transactions made regarding the purchase of the property from City of Harare.

In 2012, ‘illegal settlers’ where ordered by the High Court to vacate the land since at law they had no legal right to occupation.

Sunway City was the applicant in the High Court case number HC9426/11 while Luckmore Andresome, Carlos Mushawathu and Tonderai Mavhudzi were cited as the first, second and third respondents. Alois Chihobvu was the fourth respondent followed by 44 others.

Part of the judgement issued by Justice Lavender Makoni on September 26, 2012 reads: “The respondents and any other persons acting or purporting to act on their behalf are hereby interdicted from carrying out any further construction, land clearance, cultivation or other activities on the remaining extent of Ventersburg held under Deed number 9498/99.

“Respondents or any persons claiming occupation through them are hereby evicted from the estate and the Sheriff or his lawful deputies or the Zimbabwe Republic Police are authorised to demolish any structures constructed on the remaining extent of Ventersburg Estate.”

As a result of the court order, residents of Epworth said some structures in part of ward 6 of the estate were pulled down and the demolitions only stopped after an agreement for a six-month reprieve was reached by the parties involved.

This window period would provide government time to secure alternative residential area for those affected. Reoccupation of the land gathered momentum at the behest of Zanu (PF) officials seeking political support ahead of the July 31elections, the affected families claimed.

The housing officer with Epworth Local Board, one Kali, and Board Chairperson Tafara Murambidzi said they had no knowledge of alternative land put aside for affected families.

While Kali referred questions to the Board Secretary, Kizito Muhomba, Murambidzi, was quick to point out that there was no way the local board could have secured land for the victims without consent of a full board meeting. “We have never deliberated on the issue as a board and there is no way Muhomba can provide land for the affected families,” he said. Efforts to reach Muhomba for comment were fruitless.

Following the landslide Zanu (PF) “victory” at the last polls, people who built houses and other structures outside their respective local authorities’ laws, were warned by the local government ministry of looming demolitions.

Over 25,000 illegal structures in Chitungwiza and Seke face demolition as recommended by an investigating commission set up by Chombo. Most of the affected families maintain that they were urged to build the structures by campaigning Zanu (PF) officials who have since abandoned them.

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