Perplexing questions around demolition of illegal structures

Ngwindi Ngwindingwindi

Why must it be during rainy season?

How did they manage to make authorities ‘sleep’ while they built those structures?

Who settled the illegal settlers?

Where do they get the courage to do what they know is illegal?

Where were the authorities when the settlers built those structures until they lived in them for years?

These are some of the perplexing questions any sane human being would like to ask whenever they get a chance to meet with the city officials or the provincial government personnel.

Without seeking to be nice or diplomatic about the matter, I shall not hesitate to point at incompetence where it is rife and blatant. What the authorities are doing is fire fighting by way of exerting evil upon the people. It must in the first place be the duty of the responsible authority to monitor and protect the said wetlands on which the structures are built, rather than wait until structures are erected and there are people  living in them, then the demolitions are instituted. It is wrong and sinful especially talking about such operation when the rains have begun pouring.

Shelter as a human right should be treated with utmost reverence. No human being must be rendered homeless no matter what situation or background of the problem. Alternative accommodation must be made available for such people because in some cases they are simply victims of corporate greed and political corruption.

We have read about land barons parceling out stands to individuals and corporates. The question on this one is; how do the land barons acquire so much land to accommodate thousands of home seekers in a municipality like Harare, which should have a stringent policy on land allocation? This goes on to show that there are so many loopholes within the municipal system which were deliberately left open to feed the machineries of corruption.

It should not be a difficult proposition to institute corrective measures to this menace, but people are simply not willing to do what is right for the sole purpose of just keeping the loophole open for continued looting.

On the other hand, there is a clear display of lack of policy consistency in the way the city is being run. We should not have recurring demolition operations if the city officials were really serious on their mandate. I remember some time in year 2020 witnessing demolitions of illegal tuck-shops and market stalls. If you visit the same places today, those cabins are back in full force.

The massive and unforgettable Operation Murambatsvina of 2005 did not help either; shanty settlements have established over the years in many places including the wetlands.

When policies or statutory instruments are crafted, they are required to highlight and be vocal on issues which affect humanity.

On this topic, what I am going to highlight has a strong bearing on the plight and welfare of ordinary citizens who dwell in some impoverished societies of our country. That is the constituency which requires the attention of policy making of whatever nature and level.

Policies which have anything to do with human habitat or shall I simply call it housing, must be carefully monitored in order to avoid haphazard settlement of people without requisite amenities.

The issuance of residential and commercial stands to home seekers and businesspeople needs to be strictly centralized so as to shut doors to land barons who have created a menace in our towns and cities.

In conclusion, at this point in time, it must be the duty of responsible authorities to find alternative accommodation for the affected people because they are the ones who slept on duty while the settlements were being erected.

My advice to the city and all relevant authorities is that Harare must suspend land allocation for residential stands until they are able to provide service to the existing population. In case of future allocations, they must not allow erection of structures in places which are not serviced by the city itself.

This must be a standard procedure across the board which must never be infringed for whatever purpose. We need a smart city, and I am confident that with competent and right leadership, the city will shine again.

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