Housing demolitions: Warped response to corruption

THE history of post-independence Zimbabwe will not be adequate if the history of housing demolitions and huts being put ablaze is not recorded. In urban areas, housing demolitions are recurrent episodes, which unfortunately are done with tacit approval from the national leadership.

By Kowanai Mhlanga

Whether for beautification purposes or any other reason, Zimbabwe gloats over it. To cite just but a few examples;in1986, on the eve of the visit of Queen Elizabeth II for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Tashinga camp in Mbare was razed down. In October of the same year 600 squatters from Epworth were relocated. In November 1993, Churu residents in unclear motives were evicted, and moved to Porta Farm and then to Hatcliffe holding camps. Unfortunately these people were to be affected by the infamous Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order in May 2005 that the government in cahoots with local authorities sanctioned, affecting over 700 000 people.

As in 2005, soon after the 2013 harmonised elections, a plethora of demolitions took place. Harare and the surrounding urban local authorities such as Ruwa, Epworth and Chitungwiza experienced housing demolitions in 2014. Subsequent demolitions occurred in 2015 namely Westlea, Kambuzuma, Budiriro, Glen Norah, and more are targeted in Glen View and other low-income residential areas.

epworth demolitions

The programme and subject of demolition is an emotive topic. On one hand are pundits that argue that developments should not be haphazard. They argue that we are a country that takes pride in maintaining standards. Though the obtaining law such as the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act of 1976 seems draconian, it has been retained to control haphazard erection of structures in urban areas.

This Act is a “development control measure” and thus the area under development has to be serviced with water and sewer reticulation, roads, electricity, refuse collection and so forth. Uncontrolled development is viewed as a recipe for disaster and sprawling unplanned settlements/slums are associated with criminal activities, stockpiles of garbage that spread of water and air-borne disease.

On the other hand, demolitions are viewed as retrogressive, as they plunge the urban poor to worse off situations. Demolitions infringe on the rights of people, as they are discordant with the protocols and conventions to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

But a closer scrutiny of houses that are bulldozed will reveal that most of the houses are those that are under cooperatives.
They bear the names of revolutionary icons of Zimbabwe such as Leopold Takawira, Herbert Ushewokunze, Herbert Chitepo, Chenjerai Hunzvi, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and Sally Mugabe. The leaders are known, and they seem to front Zanu PF bigwigs in the political matrix. Areas such as Kambuzuma, Budiriro, Harare South, Mt Pleasant Heights have many such names of cooperatives.

When Local Government, Public Works and National Housing minister Saviour Kasukuwere was sworn in, he promised heaven on earth, and the gullible thought the so-called land barons were going to be arraigned before the courts. Since then, his utterings have remained just but threats, and all we hear and see are demolitions of houses belonging to the urban poor.

It is my firm view that authorities both at local or central government levels are skirting the elephant in the room, and this elephant is none other than corruption.

Zimbabwe is not short of policies, legislations and strategies against this cancer.

For the record, Zimbabwe is a signatory to protocols and conventions against corruption. Zimbabwe ratified the Sadc Protocol on Corruption in 2007, in addition to ratifying the African Union Convention on preventing and combating corruption and the United Nations Convention against Corruption in February 2007.

More importantly, the Anti-Corruption Commission Act [Chapter 9:22], the core piece of legislation regarding the fight against corruption, was established through Amendment Number 16 of 2000, through Section 108A of the old Constitution. It is this Act that enabled the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Zimbabwe (Zacc) as it was called in 2005, which now is being referred to as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), the body of which has been retained in the Office of the President and Cabinet.

The first set of commissioners was sworn-in on September 8,2005. A decade after the appointment of the first commissioners, a third set of commissioners under the chairpersonship of Job Whabira was appointed on November 27, 2015 by President Robert Mugabe. While we wait to see its impact, already we are hearing of housing demolitions. Is it not the responsibility of this commission to investigate circumstances around the parcelling out of land for housing cooperatives that suffer demolitions later on? Is it not proper that this commission investigates circumstances around building closer to railway lines and roads?

Could it be that the commission is understaffed to the point of failing to investigate leaders of the cooperatives that fleece people of their hard-earned cash, leaders who register the cooperatives under false names?

If a former CIO, who turned a criminal, could be arrested within two days of gunning down police details in Chipinge, what can militate against apprehending people resident in Harare who fleece desperate homeseekers of their hard-earned cash through dubious housing cooperatives?

So what is the rationale of setting a body called the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission? Is it a project to give jobs to the big boys, and some of who are well-known political praise singers?

By and large, the demolitions that have occurred in Zimbabwe, and that continue to occur and that shall occur are a clear warped response to pervasive corruption in this country. It is not true that the mere instituting of policies and legislations shows government’s commitment to weed out corruption. In the contrary, their institution is a smoke screen to hoodwink international organisations to believe we are a serious corruption fighter. They merely serve to give the national leadership the opportunity to fly to international fora.

l Kowanai Mhlanga writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on komhlanga@gmail.com.

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