BY MOSES MATENGA
CLOSE to 1 000 Harare families were left homeless last year after the city council embarked on a blitz against illegal settlers and the demolition of unauthorised houses is set to continue this year, it has emerged.
Harare City Council last week said it would continue to destroy the settlements until order was restored in the capital.
Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said about 19 illegal settlements were yet to be destroyed.
“The programme is still on until we rid Harare of all illegal settlements,” he said.
“I think the most important thing is that come 2016, we will start a programme to service residential stands and we will be doing allocations at an enhanced level.
“We have set up teams and 2016 has a lot to offer.
At least 200 houses were razed down in Budiriro last month, while 200 came down in Harare South.
Illegal settlers near the Harare International Airport were also ordered to leave the area after President Robert Mugabe described the settlement as an eyesore.
Eleven more houses were razed down in Glen Norah while 19 were destroyed in Warren Park and Westlea suburbs.
Hundreds of houses have also been affected in Glen Norah and surrounding areas, while notices have been sent to several other illegal settlers.
Chideme said in some instances people whose houses were demolished remained stuck because they had nowhere to go.
“You find one or two who are still there, others are moving on because they realise they were duped,” he said.
According to the Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA), the demolitions left hundreds homeless.
“We know for a fact that those affected can reach 1 000. In 2016, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and come up with new measures to ensure that no one is rendered homeless in such a brutal manner,” CHRA chairman Simbarashe Moyo said.
“As residents, we will make sure that we engage new strategies and new methods to stop the evil acts.
“Families are now homeless and no alternative has been given.
“We want to make sure this is stopped and we will stop at nothing to stop it.”
While some of the victims have given up on town life and taken their families to the rural areas, others have chosen to stay in Harare with relatives and friends, or moving into cheap lodgings.
Stewart Mutota, whose three-bedroomed house was demolished in Budiriro, is one of the residents who resigned to fate and decided to take his family to his rural home in Murewa.
Mutota, a civil servant, said he felt cheated after the house he acquired through a housing co-operative was declared illegal by council.
“I am a civil servant and I joined a housing co-operative where I used to pay $150 a month,” he said.
“I thought I had done the right thing but I realised it was all for nothing.
“It’s tragic, but there is nothing I can do now. I have taken my family to the village in Murewa.”
In Mbare, many illegal backyard structures mostly made of wood have sprouted as the shortage of accommodation worsens.
Most of the cabins are visibly new and residents said they were erected after the recent demolitions in and around Harare.
In most cases, more than eight people live in such structures constructed on any free space in the yard, with some detached from the main house.
Zanu PF has been fingered as the biggest culprit in dishing out land illegally as a way of wooing political support in the run-up to the 2013 elections.
The party encouraged people to form housing cooperatives, usually named after independence heroes.
The party won elections in most of the areas where the illegal settlements sprouted.
However, after the elections the ruling party declared as illegal the cooperatives and the areas where they would have parcelled out residential stands.
Bulldozers were brought to demolish houses, leaving thousands of people homeless.
Opposition parties have accused the ruling party of failing to live up to its ZimAsset promises to deliver at least 125 000 houses by 2018.-Standard