THE demolition of illegal structures in Ruwa without a full assessment of the socio-economic effects of the destruction, coupled with the abrupt halting of the exercise after a public outcry, are a clear indication the authorities have learnt nothing from the disastrous Operation Murambatsvina of 2005.
After rushing to destroy property, evoking memories of Operation Murambatsvina which displaced over 700 000 households, city authorities suddenly regained their scruples and gave a two-month reprieve to those affected.
Candid Comment Brian Mangwende
The decision has left the authorities with egg on their faces as it is evident they rushed an exercise with far-reaching implications before according it the meticulous thought and planning it merited.
If only they could move with such haste to fix other challenges such as the water crisis and dilapidated infrastructure hapless residents would be much better off.
But then again, it is much easier to destroy than build.
Local Government deputy minister Joel Biggie Matiza beat a hasty retreat after realising the hurried demolitions were yet another faux pas. Matiza was quoted saying there was no going back on demolition of illegal structures, but now government would stand guided by an audit report to be presented to his principal Ignatius Chombo.
But before the municipality destroyed property under the guise of restoring sanity in the capital, it should have conducted comprehensive research to ensure it got to the root cause of the problem and those guilty of corruptly awarding land prosecuted. After all, a majority of the structures sprouted under the nose of, and in some cases with the abetment, of government and party officials, a situation which Chombo is answerable to.
It is said over 90% of those displaced in 2005 under Operation Murambatsvina have still not been relocated, despite spirited promises from government that victims of the exercise would be resettled under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle.
Yet government still has the gall to make similar promises. “People can join the housing waiting list,” Matiza said. “We have a national housing programme that will be launched soon. We have the land for the programme, but I cannot pre-empt details until it has been launched.”
Where will the money come from when Treasury is broke and there are more pressing issues requiring urgent funding? This is clearly just another attempt to take the people for a ride.
But the pause for thought is most welcome. Government, trumpeting its indigenisation and empowerment drive, cannot afford to ignore the fact that unemployment stands at over 80%, and most people eke out a living in the informal sector largely operating from all manner of informal structures. To rob them of their livelihood without creating an alternative would be callous, particularly when there is no sign Zanu PF will deliver the 2,265 million jobs it promised in its election manifesto any time soon.