Residents left homeless as council demolishes illegal settlements

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Harare City Council last week demolished 108 illegal structures belonging to members of eight bogus housing cooperatives along Highglen Road in Budiriro.

Council officials said they had a court order to demolish an additional 500 structures, which were built on wetlands in the same area.

“One hundred and eight illegal structures in Budiriro near Highglen Mall were brought down today (Wednesday),” said the city’s corporate communications manager, Mr Michael Chideme. “Council has a court order to bring down 500 cabins in the area.

“Like we have always said, illegal structures are expensive. People are losing money unnecessarily. Anyone settling on council land should have bought the land from council. There are no shortcuts to land ownership in Harare.

“Individuals are unnecessarily enriching land barons. It is a wetland that is not suitable for housing. The land will remain open land. We want to preserve the remaining wetlands.”

Mr Chideme advised Harare residents to desist from buying land from individuals or cooperatives without consulting the council for vetting and approval.

Owners of the demolished structures belonged to eight housing cooperatives, Back to Canaan, Real Tiles, Happiness, Tichanyaradzwa 1 and 2, Mwari Anopa and Bvunzai Housing cooperatives.

“The first to 20th respondents and all persons claiming through them shall vacate occupation of the proposed subdivision of the remainder of Gleneagles Farm, Budiriro Township within 14 days from the date of this order failing which the Sheriff of Zimbabwe shall evict them,” read the order.

Another organisation, Hannah Housing Cooperative Society Limited, was granted a court order against the council which was cited together with 11 suspected land barons.

It was not clear as to the interest of the housing cooperative which won the case since the city says the land in question is a wetland.

Asked why the cooperative had made the application, Mr Chideme said: “The application has worked in our favour. No one is going to settle on that piece of wetland.”

In 2015, members of Stars Consortium had 200 of their homes demolished by council on the land in question, with council saying Harare was on a drive to preserve its wetlands and will not tolerate unplanned settlements.

Council has failed in its mandate to service land for the past 20 years citing economic challenges and had abrogated that mandate to housing cooperatives.

This led to the mushrooming of illegal settlements and unscrupulous land barons who fleeced home seekers of their hard-earned cash.

Harare has since distanced itself from housing cooperatives, which have been parcelling out land in contravention of city by-laws.

— Herald


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