Informal business demolitions spread

Marondera Municipality has ordered informal businesspersons to pull down ‘illegal’ structures in the Central Business District barely a week after Harare carried out a similar exercise.

Traders who had constructed the structures without council’s consent have since complied with the order, but this has left them without a source of income. They had built food takeaways, eco-cash outlets, hair salons, mobile phone accessories and servicing shops, and other micro ventures along the streets.

The demolitions were carried out with council bulldozers on standby lest resistance from the traders was encountered.

Town mayor Anthony Makwindi refused to comment, but sources at the local authority revealed that a full council meeting had approved the demolitions.

“Comments regarding council issues need proper planning and I made it clear that I would not give telephone interviews to the media,” Makwindi said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity the source said: “As council we agreed to pull down the structures since they were unplanned and an eye-sore.”

Mirriam Ndudzo, who ran an informal takeaway business, said the forced demolitions had left her family exposed to poverty. “I have no other source of income and my children will be turned away from school as I had not paid school fees,” she said.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights expressed concern at the unconstitutional demolition of the structures in Harare and other areas. Harare carried out similar demolitions starting on September 14, 2014 in an exercise described by ZLHR as a gross violation of the Constitution.

“The destruction of the informal trading structures by the Harare City Council violates Sections 51 and 53 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which guarantee protection against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to human dignity. It runs contrary to the national objective of promoting private initiative and self-reliance as set out in Section 13 (1) of the Constitution,” said ZLHR in a statement.

The lawyers called for an immediate end to the illegal demolitions and strongly advised against imitation of such ‘reckless actions’ by other local authorities. “Responsible local authorities can be liable for the loss of property and sources of livelihood that have been suffered thus far,” warned ZLHR.

Over 85 percent of the population earns a living in the informal sector as the country’s economy continues on a downward spiral.

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