Police descend on Harare urban land invaders

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POLICE in Harare yesterday descended heavily and dispersed hundreds of suspected Zanu PF land grabbers who had allocated themselves unserviced residential and commercial stands in the city’s high-density suburbs, turning the capital into a shanty town over the past two months.

REPORT BY JOHN NYASHANU

When NewsDay visited the affected areas in Glen Norah and Glen View yesterday, helicopters were hovering above and there was hardly anyone on site, belying the fact that the places were a hive of activity barely 24 hours earlier.

Glen View residents said the clampdown started on Thursday evening with armed police pulling down the illegal makeshift homes erected at the sites.

The evictions followed this paper’s report yesterday highlighting the extent to which unserviced open spaces throughout Harare were being invaded by suspected Zanu PF supporters under the guise of the party’s empowerment programme.

The most dramatic evictions are said to have taken place at a vlei between the Chitubu area in Glen Norah A and B which stretches for about three kilometres.

“About 20 police officers, armed with baton sticks, came around 10am. They did not say anything and everyone knew it was action time and took to their heels with the officers in hot pursuit,” a resident who declined to be named, said.

“Some were assaulted with baton sticks and many sought refuge in nearby hills.”

Although the invaders had claimed in previous interviews that the programme had the full blessings of the party and was being co-ordinated by local party officials, Zanu PF Harare provincial chairperson Amos Midzi and the party’s national secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa said the exercise was illegal.

They both described the invaders as rogue elements bent on tarnishing the party’s image.

Contacted for comment after yesterday’s evictions, Midzi said: “That’s the way to go. People have to abide by the law and we as a party will continue to support the police as they carry out their noble mandate. Anyone in need of land or who needs access to any resources has to follow procedures and the right channels.”

Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector Tedius Chibanda referred NewsDay to his superior Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi, who in turn referred the paper to his boss, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, who could, however, not be reached as her mobile phone went unanswered.

When NewsDay arrived at one of the sites in Glen View 1, the area was virtually deserted save for members of Apostolic churches who were in prayer.

Sanity had also returned to Glen View Area 7 where a market garden operated by residents and a non-governmental organisation between the suburb and Glen View 1, had also fallen prey to the invaders.

Only two women manning the makeshift Zanu PF satellite office were present when NewsDay arrived.

Sources said local party leaders, who on Thursday were collecting $10 as registration and administration fees from homeseekers, had since stopped doing so, pending a meeting scheduled for today.

The sources said the police visited the site on Thursday and warned the organisers to stop their illegal activities.

“More than 20 homeseekers today (yesterday) went to the home of one of the leaders (name supplied) trying to register, but he turned them down, saying there were developments which would be clarified at tomorrow’s (today’s) meeting,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.

At yet another open space between Glen Norah A and Glen View Area 8 home industries, the makeshift office that had been erected had been destroyed by the police after they chased away the activists.

“They (police) arrived around midday, wielding baton sticks and were in an uncompromising mood. Apparently, the police officers had come yesterday (Thursday) and warned them (Zanu PF activists) to stop their illegal activities, but they did not take heed,” another eyewitness said, adding that many were assaulted and had to flee.

The illegal occupations of urban land started in the run-up to the July 31 elections.

Similar invasions were recorded at open spaces in Chitungwiza’s Units A, C, F, K, J, L and O and also in Zengeza and St Mary’s.

Former Mabvuku councillor Enias Gengezha last week said the population of illegal dwellers near the high-density suburb had grown to more than 5 000 people.

The illegal settlements, according to residents in the existing council properties, have reportedly affected the value of the legitimate houses and posed a health hazard as there were no ablution facilities and tapped water.

It was not clear by the time of going to print yesterday if police arrested any of the invaders or the ringleaders.