Memories of June and July 2005 post- Operation Murambasvina winter are still lingering among the Gokwe residents. This left many structures in the surbubs of Mapfungautsi, Nyaradza, Njelele, Kambasha, Sasame and Gokwe Town Centre demolished.

Now the social media is awash with videos and photos of houses being demolished by the Opposition controlled local council. The first bombshell was a twit by Nicole Hondo @nicolehondo addressed to the MDCA @mdczimbabwe.

Chitungwiza Council gave people land corruptly, gave them offer letters, and collected rates monthly. After squandering the desperate people’s money, they went in and demolished their houses. That’s the character of the so-called party of excellence. Witchcraft!!!,” she wrote.

The comments and videos and photos that followed threw fear to the Gokwe residents. With the majority of the councillors controlled by the opposition in the Gokwe Town, there broke a great fear especially among the residents from Njelele (Garikai) and Mlalazi (Kambasha).

These residential areas for the past weeks have been in a great shock following the arrest and sentencing of the former Midlands Governor, Jason Machaya, on the grounds of corruption associated with the allocation of these lands.

However, the source of fear among these residents are the wars currently fought between ZANU PF and MDC. Hence, “the suspected ZANU PF aligned residents can be victimised, since their bosses are already behind the bars with the remaining trying to distance themselves,” said one of the residents at Mlalazi.

However, one of the councillors who spoke on the grounds of anonymity, quoting from the Urban Councils Act narrated to My Gokwe Media in a reading from his phone, about the legality of the demolitions.

The Urban Councils Act

Under Section 199 of the Act Councils have a duty to enforce title deed conditions and conditions under which townships have been established.

If necessary, such enforcement measures can include demolishing buildings.

Under the Third Schedule to the Act, Councils can make by-laws for the demolition of temporary structures that are unhealthy or have been erected without permission (paragraph 42 of the Schedule) and of permanent buildings that have been erected unlawfully (paragraph 43).

However, before a Council can demolish buildings and structures under its by-laws it must give the owners or occupiers an opportunity to remove them.

Under section 315 of the Act the Minister of Local Government can order a Council to take steps to carry out a duty imposed on it by the Act or any other law.

However, before issuing such an order he must give the Council an opportunity to make representations in the matter.

For example, as to whether the steps suggested by the Minister are desirable or possible.

Section 32 of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act

The Act stipulates under section 32 that an enforcement order for evictions shall not be operative until the expiry of the period stipulated which gives occupants one month to vacate the premises.

It also stipulates that an appeal against the order automatically suspends it.

The Urban Council Act requires twenty-eight days’ notice during which time those issued with an eviction order can appeal to the courts.

Under this Act, no action can be taken until the court issues its determination.

Statutory Instruments 109/1979

Statutory Instrument 109/1979 empowered council to evict and demolish Illegal structures on short notice.

However it was ruled to be unconstitutional as it went against Section 74 of the Constitution.

Section 74 provides protection against arbitrary eviction in the following terms and reads:

No person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.

The majority of the residents confirmed they were unsafe despite the fact that they hold the necessary papers. They confirmed that they once experienced the phenomenon.

I was once a resident at Mapfungautsi. The cottage I was renting was demolished to the ground. Six of us shared the house whose owner resided in the rural Mateta. I sacrifice all I had to acquire the land and build my own house here at Garikai, but the news I’m currently getting is not well with me. There is a woman who claimed to have all the legal documents but her house was demolished. That alone can talk loud that we are not safe,” said the woman.

She further accused the local councils for corrupt tendencies.

This is how Councils make advantage of us. They allow the system to have loopholes in order to benefit them. Why they don’t put in place mechanisms that can detect and deal with illegal land acquisitions on time and not wait for innocent people to start spending their hard earned money in fake land deals. I’m not sure on whether I’m residing at a legal land,” she said.

However, the Chitungwiza Municipality described as fake all the photos and videos circulating on social media.

Chitungwiza Municipality is not demolishing anything of this sort at the moment. These pictures are circulating on social media and what is portrayed is far from the truth,” they wrote on their Twitter page.

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