Ivan Zhakata and Blessings Chidakwa
Harare City Council has descended on illegal businesses operating on roadsides, demolishing structures, including car sales and cabins.
The demolitions will be extended to houses built on illegal land and wetlands.
Council has a court order to demolish illegal houses in Crowborough Farm and Westlea.
Yesterday, municipal police together with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), descended on businesses operating illegally along Tynwald Road in Westlea and Solomon Mujuru Drive (formerly Kirkman Drive).
Businesses operating along Solomon Mujuru Drive towards Dzivaresekwa and Lomagundi Roads, are set to be destroyed in the next few days.
Those affected by the blitz include car dealers and people selling cabins, bricks, pre-cast walls, flowers, goats, sheep, cement and charcoal.
Illegal shops selling construction steel, cement and roofing timber opposite N. Richards Wholesalers after Westlea were not spared.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and municipal police officers, who were armed, would ask the traders to destroy their structures but if they resisted, a front-end loader would move in.
The city’s corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme said people operating illegally have already been served with notices.
He said there was no going back on the demolitions, which are part of efforts to clean-up the city in line with the vision of a World Class City by 2025.
“Investing in illegal settlements is a waste of time and resources,” said Mr Chideme.
“We are encouraging people to settle on legal places to avoid having their structures destroyed. Anyone on illegal settlements should make sure that they remove their structures.
“We also want to preserve wetlands; so we want people to stop putting up structures on wetlands as well.”
People operating businesses along Solomon Mujuru Drive expressed sadness over the demolitions, claiming they were paying rates to the local district offices and were shocked to see a front-end loader demolishing their structures.
Chairman of the Kirkman Traders Association Mr Fidelis Magava said they were not served with eviction notices.
“When we started these projects, we paid rates to council and we agreed to pay $300 every month to operate our businesses here,” he said.
“Council then told us that there were people operating under electricity lines and they needed to be removed. Today (yesterday) we are shocked to see a front-end loader coming to destroy our businesses.
“But if the clean-up is meant to create a safe environment for us, we have no problem with it. What worries us is that we have lost our property and council did not give us any notice so that we remove important things.”
Addressing a Wetlands Indaba at Town House on Thursday, Harare Mayor Councillor Herbert Gomba warned that the demolition of houses built on illegal sites was imminent.
“Right now, we must be able to find money to pay the Messenger of Court so that our demolition team can start demolition of houses.
“We are starting our operation next week in Crowborough. Those people who are illegally occupying wetlands will be forced to vacate. People should not settle on wetlands as it affects our environment.
“A team has been set up to demolish illegal structures, and people occupying the land should vacate. We have to protect human rights to shelter, but we also need to protect the environment,” said Clr Gomba.