By Staff Reporter
MUTARE: Authorities and Sakubva high density suburb residents here have clashed over a directive by the local authority for home owners to vacate their houses to pave way for a multi-million dollar urban renewal project.
However, the residents are resisting the order insisting they were only going to move if alternative accommodation is offered.
In December 2019, President Emmerson Mnangagwa commissioned the Sakubva Urban Renewal project, an initiative the government said will modernise the old and run-down suburb and turn Mutare into a smart city.
The project is being bankrolled by BancABC and the first phase will see an injection of US$8 million by the bank.
It is a tripartite arrangement spearheaded by Plan Infrastructure Development (PID), with City of Mutare making 225 hectares available for the project.
The project will see the construction of high-rise flats, revamping of the Sakubva flea market, the long-distance bus terminus, Beit Hall and the vegetable market.
However, residents feel there should be wider consultation amongst stakeholders before the project kicks off to iron out sticky points.
Residents interviewed said although the project was a noble idea, council should give them alternative accommodation as they could not afford to pay rent elsewhere.
“We are not against urban renewal but we want alternative accommodation. I am unemployed and can’t afford to pay a three-roomed house elsewhere. Houses are being charged in foreign currency,” said Moline Katsuruware.
Another resident who declined to be named said recently, council tried to evict them but they were spared following the intervention of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
“We were almost evicted like dogs but human rights lawyers came to our rescue. We were never consulted and this came as a surprise to us,” said the resident.
Mutare City spokesperson Spren Mutiwi said residents with lease agreements signed with council should look for alternative accommodation and the major financier, BancABC will pay the rentals.
“They must look for temporary accommodation whilst construction is taking place. The major financier of this project will foot the bills for temporary accommodation. We have a database of all those who have lease agreements and will be given first preference once construction works are finished,” he said.
However, United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT) official, Edson Dube said housing was a human rights issue, hence city council must put it in black and white that it will indeed pay for alternative accommodation.
“The relationship between council and residents is marred by suspicion, mistrust and perceptions because at some point council failed to provide basic services,” he said.
“If council is committed to pay for rentals, then it’s above board. It will be noble for the bank to provide for upfront payments for accommodation during the construction phase.”