Zimbabwe opposition calls for clampdown on ‘illegal land barons’

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ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwean oppositionparty, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai, has called on the ruling Zanu-PF party to clamp down on illegal land barons, following the demolishing of houses in the capital Harare last week.

Tensions grew in some parts of Harare last week after houses near the Harare international airport were demolished last week, by the Harare city council, according to News.

Some residents, who had built plush houses, with up to nine rooms, said they had spent at least $50 000 to build them.

The residents said the houses were knocked down by the city authorities without consultations.

The report said the demolitions came after President Robert Mugabe last year indicated his displeasure over people who built houses near the airport, saying they made the country look untidy when visitors came to Zimbabwe. This prompted the Harare city council to take action, leaving thousands homeless.

In another report, News said the demolitions left the most vulnerable, women and children, bearing the brunt, as they were moved during heavy rain.

Illegal and insensitive

The state-owned newspaper, however, said the people had been staying at an open space allegedly reserved for the airport’s expansion.

The report said the affected people were being moved to Stoneridge Park, an area in Harare’s south district.

In a statement, MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu criticised the demolitions, saying the country’s constitution did not allow anyone to be evicted without a “proper court order”.

“As a social democratic political party, the MDC will never, ever condone the indiscriminate, illegal and insensitive demolition of any citizen of Zimbabwe’s place of residence,” Gutu said.

He said that shelter was a basic human right, thus, the ruling party should clamp down on the “greedy” politically connected land barons who were “terrorising” citizens.

The MDC controls the Harare city council, but the party has since shifted the blame to Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF, saying “highly connected Zanu-PF land barons” had illegally parceled out municipal land to unsuspecting members of the public.

Gutu said local authorities, which were run by the MDC, had lost all control of municipal housing land to these “greedy but politically, very powerful Zanu-PF land barons”.

“We would also urge all our councillors in the local authorities that we control to ensure that no municipal land is illegally allocated to any land baron or any other individual for that matter.

“Sanity and order should be allowed to prevail in all our urban centres. We cannot allow and/or tolerate a situation whereby people are illegally allocated residential stands,” Gutu said.

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