from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – RESIDENTS in the impoverished Chitungwiza urban of Zimbabwe have received a reprieve after lawyers stopped the municipality from demolishing their properties.
Authorities planned to destroy the structures at the main shopping centre (Unit D) amid claims the buildings and durawalls had been built or erected without the approval of the Chitungwiza Municipality.
Destructions were scheduled for January 2, but the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) intervened, arguing the local authority must withdraw its Demolition Order as it had not obtained a court order.
This would have been unlawful under Section 74 of the Constitution.
The demolition order by Acting Town Clerk, Evangelista Machona, thus would have constituted a violation.
Latest developments are a relief to the Chitungwiza Residents Trust, which engaged Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of ZLHR.
The human rights lawyer added the Demolition Order did not comply with provisions of Section 32 of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act and the Administrative Justice Act.
Chinopfukutwa also recalled a pending provisional order granted by Justice Edith Mushore in June 2021 staying demolitions of homes, durawalls and informal traders’ structures.
The lawyer disclosed he would approach the High Court seeking an order for contempt of court and other appropriate relief if the local authority decided to proceed with the demolitions.
The Nelson Chamisa-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) governs Chitungwiza, located in the capital province of Harare.
Informal structures have mushroomed over the years in Zimbabwe’s urban centres.
Authorities blame this for crime and sporadic diseases.
In 2005, the then-government of President Robert Mugabe demolished such structures, leaving at least 700 000 people without shelter or livelihoods, according to the United Nations.
The opposition claimed the government’s main reason for the so-called Operation Restore Order was to punish the urban poor for voting against Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
Cities are traditionally MDC strongholds.
– CAJ News