Chombo, Zanu (PF) on collision course over demolitions

Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo recently told Parliament that he got a court order to demolish 14,000 ‘illegal’ houses in Chitungwiza and Seke despite objections from Zanu (PF).

Chinese hotel
Chinese hotel

This was hardly a week after Didymus Mutasa, Zanu (PF) secretary for administration, announced that the demolitions were against party policy and no structure would be pulled down.

“I am informed that the courts have granted the order. We will go ahead with the demolitions as they will save lives and we are being Christian and correct to pull down the structures,” Chombo told the Portfolio Committee for Local Government chaired by Zanu (PF) MP Irene Zindi.

He said failure to correct the situation would be irresponsible on the part of government. Some of the houses were built under power pylons, in wetlands and on sewer lines, so the demolitions would save affected households from potential disasters such as disease and electrocution.

Chombo said his ministry had identified some 300,000 residential stands for affected households, but evaded questions from MDC-T MP Jessie Majome regarding what would come first- the allocation of alternative shelter or the demolitions.

Majome wondered how the court could have given the demolition order against an earlier ruling by another court saying the demolitions were unconstitutional.

In February Chitungwiza Magistrate Nomsa Sabarauta issued a provisional court order barring the local authority and Glory to Glory Housing Co-operative from proceeding with the planned demolitions.

The committee quizzed Chombo on how houses supposedly built on wetlands were targeted for demolition while the Chinese Shopping Mall on a wetland near the National Sports Stadium was spared.

Chombo claimed that the Chinese project was authorised by the Environmental Management Authority. But this was disputed by Elias Mudzuri, MDC-T MP for Warren Park, who said the EMA had told the committee under oath that it did not approve the construction of the Mall.

Joseph Chinotimba, Zanu (PF) MP, objected to the planned demolitions and described them as evil.

“Chombo and other advocates of the demolitions, do you have mercy and hearts for the poor? Your intentions are inhuman since you authorised the constructions during election campaigns. Now that elections are over you are seeking court orders and bulldozers to pull down the very houses you previously assured would not be demolished,” Chinotimba told Chombo, saying that he had a recording of the minister guaranteeing residents protection from any demolitions.

Observers have warned that if Chombo goes ahead with the demolitions, he would pay a big price as the impending head-on collision with Zanu (PF) would leave him seriously bruised.

“Mutasa is a very senior member of the party and close to Mugabe,” said a Zanu (PF) Politburo member advising Chombo not to be overzealous and careless with his decisions.

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