By Yeukai Karengezeka
A Chitungwiza court yesterday stopped Chitungwiza Municipality’s proposed demolition of houses that were build illegally, saying the local authority could not proceed without a valid court order.
The ruling was delivered by magistrate Mr Takunda Mtetwa, following an application by the affected residents led by Progress Manhema in February this year.
“I order the respondent (Chitungwiza Municipality) to refrain from destructing and or authorising or causing the demolition of the applicant’s houses without a valid order from the court of law,” he said.
Mr Mtetwa further ruled that the municipality should bear costs of the suit.
“Therefore, the local authority must compensate for all the costs incurred by the complainant in relation to this case,” he said.
Chitungwiza Municipality had advised residents that it intended to demolish more than 100 houses built on undesignated sites in a notice published in February this year.
The affected residents represented by Mr Marufu Mundevere lodged an appeal and were granted an interdict on February 8 pending judgment.
The targeted houses are said to be located on land reserved for churches, schools, cemeteries, drainage systems, electricity pylons and water pipes.
The structures are in Seke, Riverside, Nyatsime, Zengeza and St Mary’s.
Speaking on behalf of the residents, Mr Marvellous Khumalo, who is the Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association director said they were happy with the ruling.
“We are happy as residents by the fair judgment given today because it affirms that Zimbabwe is a constitutional nation that is guided by democracy,” he said.
“What the council intended to do was illegal as justified by the court.”
Last year, about 10 000 houses in Chitungwiza that were constructed on undesignated sites were spared after the owners struck a deal to pay penalty fees of $1 500 to the municipality.
About 1 500 stand owners in areas such as Nyatsime with offer letters from the council have failed to occupy their stands after some land barons parcelled out the land to desperate home-seekers.
Chitungwiza has more than 15 000 houses that need to be regularised or demolished.