By Munesu Nyakudya
The demolition of houses in Budiriro has caused not just pain among residents but also confusion on who is to blame.
Central government, through state media, has heaped all the blame on the opposition led Harare City Council.
And the optics on the ground indeed had Council personnel demolishing the illegal houses.
Council has not fought against the narrative that it demolished the houses because the personnel such as Town Clerk and various Directors indeed worked to have the demolitions effected.
However that was without the backing of the opposition Councilors.
That is why the opposition has hit back and accused central government, through Local Government Minister July Moyo, Harare State Minister Oliver Chidawu and Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC) Tafadzwa Muguti of causing the demolitions.
Government still controls the Town Council through the professional management there.
According to a statement by the MDC Alliance Secretary for Local Government Sesel Zvidzai, “at the centre of the crisis are ZANU PF land barons and illegal cooperatives whose corrupt conduct has led to the arbitrary allocations of land”.
“The current demolitions have been triggered by ZANU PF in-fighting where urban land is being used as an tool”, he said.
Who Is to Blame?
The matrix of these demolition decisions go back to the new ruling party political power-play which has resulted in the creation of new local government regulations and offices.
It goes back to the slow urban death of ZANU PF and the party’s resultant desire to revive its flagging support in Harare and other urban centres.
This has resulted in the appointment of a Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC). Mr Tafadzwa Muguti currently occupies that office.
In practice the office of the PDC has powers to oversee Council.
It’s an additional layer to the already existing offices of Provincial Minister Chidawu and Local Government Minister Moyo.
New directives given to Harare Council by central government also now mandates them to notify and invite government officials to their meetings.
The PDC can now attend a Council Full Council meeting where major city decisions are taken and any decisions taken which are averse to the ruling party can be quickly dealt with.
It’s a major undercutting of Council independence from central government.
According to the opposition the recent Budiriro demolitions provide an apt example of how this new arrangement can and is being used by government to further its own political agenda.
Before being arrested Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume ordered that demolitions be stopped citing issues to do with timing, Covid and various other reasons.
However, “the Provincial Minister took advantage of the absence of the Mayor over the last fortnight to push Council staff to execute the demolitions”, the opposition says.
To What End?
The Uchena Land Commission was explicit in stating that the land barons who have become a scourge are either members of ZANU PF or have links there.
This is the main characteristic that allows them to operate as a Mafia, above the law and with wanton disregard for fellow humans.
After the presentation of the report in December 2019 nothing has been done to follow the recommendations by the Land Commission.
No one has been arrested. No one has been investigated. And the very report itself has vanished into thin air.
What has remained happening is the wanton allocation of more land by the land barons and the continued rhetoric to deal with them.
Decimating Opposition Support in Urban Areas
At the same time the ruling party is working to scuttle the MDC Alliance by riling its urban base against them.
Thus focus has been shifted to amplifying the failures in service provision and constantly getting the urban electorate angry at Council.
That is why Information Permanent Secretary Ndabaningi Mangwana has come up with a social media campaign that is centered around highlighting and amplifying the multiple failures by the City Council.
It’s an ironic agenda that separates Councils from government in so far as its failures and shortcomings are concerned, creating a solid narrative that the opposition runs and controls the Councils.
To Government, Harare City Council is not just a local authority it has become an opposition extension that has to be fought and propaganda disseminated for the urban public to understand that the opposition they have been siding with has failed.
Local Government Ministry has been slow to approve Council budgets, central bank has been cumbersome in supporting Council with foreign currency for water chemicals and reckless sting operations lacking every iota of sense have been launched against Councilors with few end results.
The sum result of this purely political agenda driven by myopic selfishness and a deficiency in principles by those in power has been the constant suffering by urban residents.
Roads are gone, there is no water, refuse collection is gone and land barons are feasting upon every open space.
It’s a pathetic scenario that reveals the true nature of politicians running the country.
Their focus is only on elections and how they can win them.
National development is either a secondary appendage or a fortunately positive reflex action of some other events.