WASHINGTON DC —
Local Government Deputy Minister Joel Matiza on Wednesday met with residents of Chitungwiza and assured them that his ministry will not demolish so-called illegal housing units in rural and urban areas without first carrying out comprehensive assessments.
Chitungwiza Mayor Peter Mutoti, who was also at the meeting, said the minister’s remarks were helpful to agitated local people.
There was a huge turnout at two meetings held in the city on Wednesday.
Mutoti said the deputy minister went to great lengths to reassure residents that the demolition exercise would consider sparing some houses that are under Chitungwiza Council but were currently not properly registered.
The demolitions will leave more than 10,000 people homeless in cities like Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Chitungwiza and rural growth points such as Seke, Gutu, and several others. The exercise is expected to start soon.
According to Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, most councils allowed illegal settlements to expand without taking the necessary action to block them.
Mr. Chombo says these settlements sprouted in most urban and rural councils as local authorities flouted by-laws when allocating land to residents. The local councils failed to comply with provisions of the Urban Councils Act, Rural District Councils Act and Regional Town and Country Planning Act, resulting in thousands of illegal housing structures being set up in urban and rural areas.
The planned urban clean-up campaign, motivated by health and safety concerns, has evoked fears among some residents of a re-run of President Robert Mugabe's iron-fisted Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 which left over 700,000 people homeless.
In 2005, so-called illegal structures were demolished by soldiers and police on the orders of the then ruling ZANU-PF government. Operation Murambatsvina was widely seen by analysts as a punishment of city dwellers for giving their overwhelming support to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.