The demolitions of so-called illegal houses dotted around Harare residential suburbs is symptomatic of something very wrong in the way institutions like local government, central government, Zanu PF and indeed some individual land barons conduct their business.
Rugare Gumbo Politician
Surely, settlements are mushrooming everywhere, but unlike the mushroom vegetable, building a house, whether on a designated or undesignated place is not an overnight endeavour. Some of these structures that are being destroyed took years to take the shape in which they were demolished in, several thousands of dollars slowly set aside by mostly poor home-seekers, some of whom genuinely thought they were making a lifetime investment.
The question is how on earth in a country with a republic police, municipal police and officials, a full-fledged local government ministry, can citizens have the luxury to just erect houses wherever and whenever they feel the urge to?
Such a phenomenon needs proper interrogation and the real culprits put to their defence and if convicted locked away from society for they are not only criminals but economic saboteurs who paint an investor repulsive image on the country that is inimical to any form of development.
Sadly, the culprits are the big fish in society, the bigger criminals who now enjoy the luxury of ensuring smaller criminals find their day in prison while they grow fatter and fatter feeding on the carrion of impoverished and desperate home-seekers who are otherwise law-abiding citizens of the republic.
We do not want to play prosecutor, judge and the jury, but in the court of public opinion where we operate from, we are duty-bound to ask questions and seek answers and most of the answers we get from affected residents point to the fact that when they got the pieces of land, there was a land baron who claimed he/she owned the piece of land that they eventually bought.
In other circumstances there is a housing cooperative formed by or at the instruction of a high-ranking Zanu PF official or, in the case of Southlea Park, the government, through the local government ministry, handed over pieces of land to residents under the land reform inspired exercise code-named Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle.
So, central government is involved in some cases, while unscrupulous land barons, with backing from Zanu PF and some council officials, are implicated in others.
What comes out clearly is that our country has no rule of law and government and all its arms has forgotten its role of enforcing legal instruments that bring order, confidence and purpose to human interaction, business transacting and pursuit of developmental projects for human sustenance and fulfilment of purposes in life.
It is quite clear that corruption is at the centre of government operations and laws are either flouted or not enforced at all to enable wanton and primitive extraction of resources by the political elite. These resources that the political elites are hell-bent on extracting happen to be or even cash in the hands of desperate home-seekers.
Zimbabweans have tolerated a government and its functionaries, which plans to impoverish its citizens through carefully crafted extortionate operations and non-enforcement of laws in cases where such laws protect the public.
Land barons and even extortionists who run fake seed and fertiliser schemes have come with Zanu PF masks, duped desperate citizens, helped themselves to millions of dollars and nothing happens to apprehend them, mete justice or compensate the affected citizens.
The land barons responsible for duping the residents who find their houses demolished today are known. Their accomplices in local authorities are still employed and drawing a salary, yet nothing is being done to apprehend them.
The reason is that they are well-connected, fronts of some big fish that are in the business of looting from poor citizens and hedge themselves against prosecution through a cultist Zanu PF patronage system which ensures no high-ranking official is ever prosecuted even if he steals the whole country minus the first family and the security sector.
It is admissible for these politicians to rob the poor, as long as they are subservient to the party and share their loot with the party through some so-called honourable donations of beasts, cash, maize vegetables and yoghurts when the party fails to underwrite its programmes like youth and women’s league elections.
That is the biggest problem we have in the country and as long as government, its president and state functionaries are extractive criminals who see in this country a backyard garden where they draw fruits and vegetables for their families’ consumption, there will never be any development ushered in by the current system.
In their extractive mind-set, all the diamonds are theirs, the land, both urban and rural, should benefit them and the citizenry is there only to be taxed, extorted through different means including traffic spot fines, unreasonable import duty, arbitrary hikes in power tariffs inter alia.
It is time that we begin to question those in power on their obligations to ensure the country is habitable, has laws that it respects and the wherewithal to arrest and punish the corrupt among us.
It boggles the mind that 16 years down the line, we still have farm invasions and a similar extractive exercise of appropriating foreign firms.
Unless we ensure property rights are guaranteed, no investor will ever want to sink their money into our economy and our country will continue sliding into the abyss as it has been doing since 2000 but as sure as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow, the political elite in Zanu PF, under the current circumstances, will continue to loot national resources with impunity.
Let us forget about the sanctions mantra, do a reality check and appreciated that our politicians, especially those in Zanu PF, are responsible for every problem that we are in, be it demolition of houses or shortage of maize in our granaries. The buck simply stops with them.
Gumbo is a senior member of the People First movement led by former vice-president Joice Mujuru. He is also a former spokesperson of the ruling Zanu PF party and member of its politburo until December 2014 when he was kicked out of the party for being aligned to one of the factions in Zanu PF jostling to position itself to take over power should President Robert Mugabe leave office.