High Court halts demolitions

high court
Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter—

SCORES of Harare residents building houses in areas allocated by co-operatives, got a reprieve after the High Court stopped demolitions of all houses in some high density suburbs, forthwith. The court made the order against Harare City Council in the case in which three Budiriro 4 residents were seeking to stop the demolitions.

Harare City Council last week demolished more than 100 houses in Budiriro 4 under various co-operatives including Ngungunyana, Tembwe and Tabudirira among others.

The local authority said it was targeting 19 illegal settlements in and around the city.

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Observers described the move as another “Operation Murambatsvina” or Operation Clean-Up that saw the destruction of illegal structures in Harare in 2005.

Justice Francis Bere granted the urgent chamber application by the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) for the provisional order to end the demolitions.

The court application was lodged through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on behalf of Messrs Tawanda Mukungurutse, Patrick Chikohora and Cledwin Mutete.

The trio feared the local authority would destroy their homes. This followed a series of house demolitions in Budiriro 4 that left hundreds of residents without shelter.

The victims also lost property worth thousands of dollars due to demolition and theft.

Harare City Council that was listed as the first respondent in the matter, allegedly embarked on the demolitions despite the fact that the local authority was aware of the constructions.

Reads the order: “The first respondent (Harare), be and is hereby barred from demolishing the applicants’ homes in Budiriro 4 in the absence of the order of a competent court.”

Council lawyer Mr James Mutizwa of Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners yesterday confirmed that his client agreed to the provisional order being granted in favour of the three.

He said he had no problem with the order sought given the fact that council had finished destroying illegal structures in Budiriro and it is not going back there.

In demolishing the hundreds of houses in Budiriro last week, Mr Mutizwa said council acted in terms of a legal instrument promulgated in 1975.

“That statutory instrument empowers a local authority to serve a notice to a person who is in illegal occupation of council land to vacate within 24 hours,” he said.

“If that person does not comply with the notice, the council is empowered to destroy the illegal structure. For doing that council does not need a court order.”

CHRA lawyer Ms Belinda Chinowawa, argued that her clients communicated with the city fathers alerting them of the illegality of the continued demolitions in the absence of a court order.

The associations’ argument was that the houses earmarked for demolition, were built with the full knowledge of the city fathers.

The association contended that the trio had reasonable fear that they would face a similar fate as their circumstances were identical to those whose houses have been demolished.

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