The government on Thursday intensified its national programme designed to demolish illegal structures in urban and rural areas by demolishing some of them in Ruwa, Damofalls and ZIMRE Park, east of Harare.
Police and Local Government Ministry sources told VOA Studio 7 that phase one of the programme targeted tuckshops, beginning with Ruwa and spreading to other areas. Phase two, which is expected to start in a few weeks, will target illegally built homes.
Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo has warned that government will demolish all illegal structures as it did in 2005 in a clean-up campaign dubbed Operation Murambatsvina which was condemned locally and internationally.
Ruwa chairperson Phineas Mushayavanhu said council is not directly involved in the demolition.
At the same time, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has given a 72-hour ultimatum to the Ministry of Local Government to furnish them with detailed information on how the government will honour its constitutional obligations before rolling out its planned forced evictions of residents in some parts of the country.
ZLHR says it will approach the courts for recourse if the council fails to respond on time.
In a letter delivered to Chombo’s offices on Wednesday, ZLHR demanded assurances from the ministry that it will follow the dictates of the law in executing the planned evictions and demolition of property given the fact that Zimbabwe has a new constitution, which provides for the protection of the basic human rights.
ZLHR spokesman Kumbirai Mafunda described Chombo’s actions as unconstitutional.
Human rights activists have warned that the programme is likely to bring suffering among the victims like the widely condemned Operation Murambatsvina of 2005.
Critics have charged the move to demolish the structures is merely political, while others say it is time for the government to find a solution to the illegal sprouting of nationwide.
For perspective reporter Tatenda Gumbo spoke to Zanu-PF activist, Gadzira Chirumhanzu, and former Deputy Minister of Local Government, Sesal Zvidzai. Zvidzai said it is abhorrent that a government can sit down and punish its poor, leaving them in unfavorable conditions.
In a related development, Harare Municipal Police arrested scores of vendors in the central business district and consficated their wares. Council sources said they want to clean up the streets. Efforts to get a comment from Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni were futile as he did not pick up his mobile phone.