Freeman Razemba: Crime Reporter
More than 3 000 families were left homeless yesterday after their houses built on land belonging to BAK Storage Company along Harare-Masvingo Road were razed to the ground by the Sheriff following a High Court order to evict the illegal occupiers. The houses were built on 70 hectares of land belonging to the storage company.
Heart rending scenes were the order of the day as hapless residents watched their houses being pulled down to the ground. Those that delayed removing their property were counting their loses yesterday afternoon as bulldozers knocked down the structures along with their contents. Some of the residents were seen hastily removing some valuables such as doors, door frames and roofing sheets before the bulldozers flattened the structures.
Household property such as beds, blankets, stoves and wardrobes was strewn all over as watchful policemen monitored the Sheriff on duty.
According to the court order TSL Limited and HGP Vostermans (Pvt) Limited were cited as the first and second plaintiffs while Tirivepano Housing Cooperative, Nyashadzamwari Housing Cooperative, Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Commissioner-General of Police were cited as the first, second, third, fourth and fifth respondents.
“The Sheriff for Zimbabwe, his deputy or his duly authorised agent with the assistance of the police if necessary, be and hereby ordered to demolish any structures erected by the first and second respondent, their members and associated third parties on the land and to remove the rubble thereof from the land. The first and second respondents shall pay the cost of suit,” reads part of the court order.
When The Herald visited the area yesterday, police had been deployed to maintain law and order while excavators were destroying the structures. There were reports of violence with the affected people blaming some politicians for their predicament. Those with resources hired trucks to ferry their belongings to unknown destinations.
In an interview, a representative of Tirivepano Housing Cooperative, Mr Obert Musindo, said the housing cooperative was started in 2000 and most people started building their houses in 2012. He said they were shocked yesterday to receive information that they were going to be evicted from the area.
“There are more than 3 000 families here and we still don’t know what they are going to do or where they would go. The matter was still before the courts and we are still shocked that we have been evicted,” Mr Musindo said.
BAK Storage property manager Mr Lovemore Chivaura, said the company sympathised with innocent home seekers who might have been duped by land barons into participating in illegal settlements. “This has become widespread of late and we can only urge home seekers to take precautions before committing their investments into the hands of untested agents,” he said.
Mr Chivaura said the area where these people had built their houses, was a container park that comprised of warehousing infrastructure and goods worth millions of dollars for import and export. There are also millions of kilogrammes of tobacco, grain, beans and groceries in the area.