ZIMBABWE – The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has welcomed the High Court ruling declaring illegal the demolition of residential properties by the government and fired a broadside at MDC-T-run councils.
Destruction of the houses was upscalled after President Robert Mugabe expressed outrage over a settlement near the Harare International Airport while opening a new road ahead of the visit by Chinese leader Xi Xinping last December.
Despite being a regular user of the airport for his innumerate foreign trips, Mugabe had apparently not seen the settlement before.
The veteran leader ordered the land cleared, saying it was meant for airport expansion with Harare City Council also razing down other settlements that had mushroomed up around the capital saying they were illegal.
However, the High Court ordered a stop to the demolitions on Monday.
Justice Priscilla Chigumba declared that “under no circumstances are the Government departments at liberty to demolish any structures in the absence of a court order authorizing them to do so, whether the structures are illegal or an eyesore.”
PDP, led by former finance minister Tendai Biti, said the ruling was a massive reliefe for affected residents.
“This comes as a relief to desperate home seekers who lost their entire life’s savings and properties following the demolitions of their properties without the necessary court orders as enshrined in the Constitution,” said party spokesman Jacob Mafume.
“Thousands of families have been rendered destitute because of the callous demolitions, which in the first place an infringement of their fundamental right.”
Mafume urged residents who lost their property to sue government and the local authorities.
“We totally support the advice of Justice Chigumbura to people whose homes were destroyed that they use court processes and sue the government and the Harare City Council over the unlawful demolitions.
“Lawlessness and anarchy must never be tolerated especially if it is coming from those who must abide by the law because they are knowledgeable and understand its requirements.”
Mafume also attacked former opposition allies in the MDC-T party which runs Harare City Council.
“As the PDP, we are concerned that some of the local authorities involved in the demolitions are run by opposition parties that claim to be social democrats but choose to cooperate with the heartless Zanu PF government in making unconstitutional decisions.
“This is a clear negation of duty on the part of this opposition grouping and we hope that the ruling will give them time to introspect.”
Service delivery has also collapsed under the MDC-T’s watch not just in Harare but other towns and cities controlled by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party.
“It is also unfortunate to note that in the same local councils, service delivery is almost none existent while revenue collected from ratepayers is used to pay for luxury vehicles and holidays for the senior executives with ordinary workers going for months without receiving their salaries,” said Mafume.
“This sad state of affairs being witnessed in the capital is the same in most urban councils, such as Mutare, Gweru and Masvingo with the residents unfortunately bearing the brunt of the government and the local authorities’ insensitivities.
“Residents are being forced to fetch water from unprotected sources as the local councils fail to provide clean and safe to ratepayers.
“Roads and other social infrastructure remain in a deplorable state while informal traders who are trying to make a decent living in such a difficult economic situation are being chased away and their goods are confiscated without compensation by the criminal cabals that have become of council police.”