WASHINGTON DC —
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has filed an urgent chamber application to stop local authorities in Harare and its metropolitan areas from demolishing homes and businesses they claim are built illegally.
The lawyers are seeking an order interdicting Epworth local board, local government, police commissioner general, home affairs minister and attorney general from demolishing houses belonging to some Epworth residents and to stop evicting them.
In Chitungwiza residents are filing papers in the High Court on Tuesday.
Tensions are high in the two high density suburbs as government intensifies the ongoing demolitions which started Friday night in Chitungwiza and Epworth. Thousands of people have been left homeless and scores have been injured.
On Sunday, police raided Epworth and fired bullets and teargas canisters on residents, assaulted them and arrested more than 20 residents who were released Monday after lawyers intervened.
There have also been threats on the mayor of Chitungwiza Philip Mutoti and his family by angry residents. They blame the mayor for the demolitions.
In a sign that the demolitions are widening, the Harare City Council says it will demolish more than 300 illegal structures in the high density surburb of Glen Norah after serving settlers with 48 hour eviction notices. Council says the structures were built on wetland and recreational facilities.
The local authorities are claiming they have been instructed by the government to demolish "illegal structures." More than 14,000 residential stands allocated to home seekers in Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural District Council alone are said to be illegal and the government says it will demolish them.
An audit report by the Ministry of Local Government in December last year says some of the stands were “created on spaces reserved for clinics, churches, schools, cemeteries, recreational activities and roads, while others were created under high voltage electricity pylons.”
Speaking to VOA Studio 7 on Friday, Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, said there is no going back on the demolition.
Chombo said government is willing to relocate people to a farm in Nyatsime. But residents claim the stands are not enough.
Lawyer, Tonderai Bhatasara told VOA Studio 7 that the demolitions are unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has condemned the demolitions calling them a blatant violation of the constitution.
The MDC-T also sought to distance its Chitungwiza-led council from the demolitions. The party said in the statement, “We wish to place it on record that the MDC council running Chitungwiza has nothing to do with the current unconstitutional act that will leave thousands homeless and that is a gross violation of human rights.”
The MDC blames the Zanu-PF-led government for the demolitions.