Residents challenge demolition law
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
BUDIRIRO residents have filed an application in the Constitutional Court challenging the propriety of the law that allows local authorities to demolish houses and evict occupants without offering alternative accommodation.
Harare City Council has given 48-hour eviction notices to 131 members of Rudo Housing Cooperative in Budiriro 5B basing on Statutory Instrument 109/1979 which empowers council to evict and demolish illegal structures on short notice.
The residents are now challenging the law arguing that the demolition of houses without offering alternative accommodation was a breach of the people’s constitutional right to life enshrined under Section 48 of the supreme law.
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It is the residents’ contention that their eviction without being heard, was a violation of their right to administrative justice under Section 68 of the Constitution.
They further argue that their rights to equal protection and benefit of the law will also be violated under the circumstances.
In the constitutional application filed on Monday by Mutebere and Company law firm, the residents argue that they duly applied for the land and were allocated by council.
Council, according to the cooperative members, even drafted a site plan for the residential area and construction started only to be served with the eviction notice two years later.
“Having allocated that land, first respondent’s Department of Planning proceeded to create a site plan demarcating the space into several residential stands of above 200square metres each.
“Using the said plan, the applicant (cooperative) allocated the residential stands to its members as the first respondent had made it to believe that everything was on course.
“The members erected buildings in which most of them reside with their families,” reads the cooperative chairman’s founding affidavit.
It is the residents’ argument that they will suffer great loss if the eviction and demolitions go ahead.
The members argue that they invested much into the properties and that demolishing the houses without compensation was unconstitutional.
They also have nowhere to go.
The residents want the court to determine the propriety of evicting the members without affording them an opportunity to be heard.
It is the members’ contention that council’s actions will cause undue hardship on the affected families leading to mental stress and breakdown of family relations.
Criminal activities were also to increase as those rendered homeless seek to raise money for alternative accommodation.
Cited as respondents are council, Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Attorney General Advocate Prince Machaya.