Harare backs down on planned home demolitions

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By Anna Chibamu

HARARE city authorities have gone back on an earlier decision to resume demolishing illegal structures but will now seek the courts’ intervention in attempts to stop continued invasions on its land.

The city communicated this position in a tweet on Friday.

“Following the Supreme Court ruling against 48-hour notices to demolish structures, Harare City Council will proceed by way of urgent chamber applications to stop the invasions and further development on the land and pray that the courts issue summons for eviction,” said the local authority.

Earlier on Thursday and through twitter, the council had threatened to raze down all illegal structures built on council land by people “claiming political clout”.

“The City of Harare is moving to demolish all illegal structures on recently invaded land.

“There has been an influx of land invasions by people claiming political clout.

“Council is buoyed by government support against land invasions and will ensure that all land is properly planned for and is used for what is zoned for.”

Called to explain the two divergent council positions, Harare City Council public relations manager Michael Chideme said he did not have much to say further than what had already been communicated by the local authority through twitter.

Harare is worst hit by illegal settlements and land barons among all the country’s local authorities.

Authorities have responded through demolitions, but this has invited strong resistance from politicians and human rights groups.

Most home owners who have been targeted for the punitive action have often claimed to have acquired the land “legally” through individuals linked to council.

Families have lost life savings after deploying pensions and lump sums towards building the houses only to find them reduced to rubble by authorities the next day.

Council continues to warn members of the public not to purchase land from unauthorised individuals.

Similarly, President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa has appointed a land commission of inquiry to probe illegal land occupations in urban areas.

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