Demolition of illegal structures to continue

Blessings Chidakwa

Municipal Correspondent

All councils have been given the green light to continue cleaning-up and renovating workspaces occupied by informal traders to improve their state ahead of resumption of business when the lockdown ends, according to a Government circular.

Some informal traders and residents’ associations had blocked the exercise after lodging an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking an order to stop the demolition of illegal structures countrywide.

The High Court recently ordered local authorities to stop the demolition of workspaces used by informal traders in Epworth and Chitungwiza saying the act was illegal.

Government’s latest directive is contained in a circular5 May 2020 written by Secretary for Local Government and Public Works Mr Zvinechimwe Churu.

It was directed to all town clerks, town secretaries and chief executive officers.

Reads the circular in part: “The court in its final determination ordered that the Circular Minute Number 3 of 2020 is legal and the clean-ups and renovations of Small and Medium Enterprises and informal traders’ workspaces by local authorities should proceed.” Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest), which is part of the group that approached the High Court to block the demolition of tuckshops and vending stalls, yesterday raised a red flag again.

“The circular is misleading. The court order never said the circular was lawful. The lawfulness of the circular has not yet been decided. We got a consent order stopping the demolitions as they are un-procedural so as residents we stick to that,” said Chitrest director Alice Kuveya.

In the initial circular dated April 8, 2020, Mr Churu said Cabinet had directed all local authorities to take advantage of the national lockdown to clean-up and renovate workspaces occupied by informal traders and by small and medium enterprises “so that these areas will be more conducive to operate from when business reopens”.

The circular designated as essential the workers doing the renovations and clean-up.

In the consent order stopping the demolitions, residents and vendors organisations including Kushinga Epworth Residents’ Association were represented by Dr Tarisai Mutangi and Moses Nkomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

They said the widespread demolition, by local and central Government, of tuckshops, vending stalls and other property used by small and medium enterprises and informal traders was unlawful and should be stopped immediately.

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