Rights Lawyers Challenge Mugabe Airport Demolitions

By Professor Matodzi

Harare, January 29, 2016 – Human rights lawyers have gone to court to challenge President Robert Mugabe instigated demolition of homes at a settlement bordering the Harare international airport.

Several families been seen their homes reduced to rubble by the Harare City Council and have had to endure the elements of the current rain season while living in the open.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) Thursday took the bold decision to sue Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joram Gumbo on behalf of some residents.

The lawyers are seeking an order barring Harare city authorities from further destroying beleaguered residents’ homes and property and further harassing them.

In an application filed Thursday, ZLHR project lawyers Bellinda Chinowawa and Fiona Iliff argued that the residents’ constitutionally guaranteed protections from arbitrary eviction, property rights and unlawful administrative conduct had been infringed upon as the demolitions were being conducted in the absence of a court order as provided for under Section 74 of the new Constitution.

Last year, Mugabe harangued his ministers for allowing what he found to be an unsightly settlement to mushroom on the fringes of the national airport to the embarrassment of the country.

Chinowawa and Iliff asked the High Court to order Kasukuwere and Mombeshora to provide suitable emergency alternative accommodation for their clients and their families.

The human rights lawyers said the residents had constructed their houses in Subdivision E of Arlington Estate on land which they acquired lawfully through Nyikavanhu Housing Cooperative, a registered entity under the Cooperative Societies Act Chapter 24:05).

The lawyers said the demolitions have left the residents’ property and their health vulnerable to further strain.

They buttresed their challenge against eviction with past documentation from government, the Attorney General’s Office, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and the Surveyor General as proof of the residents’ legal status on the land.

One of the residents, Jean Pierre Dusabe, the lawyers further say, had built a house worth $75 000 which he lost together with $8 000 worth of valuables.

As if these were not enough troubles, he has had to live in the open with a sick child and a pregnant wife.

The lawyers implored the respondents to mitigate the family’s plight by securing them suitable alternative accommodation pending a determination of the case now before the courts.

Another resident, John Peter Mutokambali, whose house was valued at $100 000 and who lost property valued at $10 000 during the demolition, is currently sleeping in a vehicle and has a brother who has fallen critically ill since the demolitions and has had to be admitted in hospital.

The demolitions, which come after the razing down of some houses in Harare’s Budiriro high density suburb late last year, has evoked memories of Operation Murambatsvina, a controversial government backed clean-up exercise back in 2005.

The widely condemned exercise, according to a later UN report, left at least 700 000 people homeless while another 2.4 million were directly affected.