At least 190 illegal houses were demolished by Harare City Council in Budiriro 5 yesterday with police arresting Caleb Kadye on charges of parcelling out stands on Tembwe Housing Cooperative land about 2km from Budiriro 5 Current shopping centre.
Yesterday affected families were counting losses, while battling the rains, with women and children crying and men battling to find safe and secure places for their property.
Furniture was scattered in the mud, with only a few people having managed to ferry it to safer places.
A handful of defiant householders were seen trying to stand in front of a council bulldozer in an attempt to block it from demolishing their properties, but to no avail.
The alleged land baron Kadye who was at the back of the police truck during the demolitions, could be heard shouting trying to block the exercise.
Critics have repeatedly said the local authority should have stopped construction at foundation level, but for two decades the MDC-A councils have allowed unplanned settlements to mushroom, only moving in when buildings are up and occupied.
The land scams have led to the arrests of the city’s top officials including successive mayors Herbert Gomba, Jacob Mafume, town clerk Hosiah Chisango, housing director Addmore Nhekairo and principal housing officer Edgar Dzehonye.
A council official who declined to be named, said the teams had been tasked to demolish nearly 200 illegal houses.
“According to the instruction at hand we have been tasked to demolish between 180 to 190 houses built illegally here,” said the official.
In an interview, acting Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Innocent Ruwende said the houses were on stands illegally parcelled out.
An affected person, Mrs Erica Chikuse blamed the council for being insensitive.
“I bought the stand for US$2 500 sometime in 2010 from Tembwe Housing Cooperative although there were challenges with the council papers, but we were in the process to regularise this,” she said.
“Later there were tussles within the leadership resulting in one of the members forming a new cooperative by the name Events which ordered us to vacate the area.”
Mrs Chikuse said they were taken aback to see their houses demolished at a time the cooperative’s leadership was processing council papers for regularisation.
“Without any formal notice today we just received a phone call from council officials saying they were going to demolish our houses, but we thought it was their usual talk.
“I have nowhere to go and I was actually prepared to pay the fines, but I am heartbroken to see my house being demolished,” she said.
Another affected beneficiary, Mrs Netsai Jaketi, said she bought the stand in 2012.
“I paid a joining fee of US$250 to Tembwe Housing Cooperative and did not expect that it will end in such a tragic manner. This is actually a thorn in the flesh for me, imagine it is raining and I was actually beaten by security details while trying to remove my property inside the house,” she said.
The demolitions come at a time as those buying land parcelled out illegally, and those creating fake stands and selling land corruptly, both now face arrest as Government moves to stamp out corruption, especially in Harare and Chitungwiza where many officials and councillors have been arrested for illegally parcelling out land.