HARARE – Hundreds of illegal settlers in Retreat, Waterfalls, Harare are counting their losses after their dwellings were demolished on Friday last week.
More than 300 illegal structures were destroyed to allow Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church (UFIC) to occupy the land that the families had been allocated by land barons.
The demolitions took place in an area popularly known as kumaCongo because some of the illegal stands were occupied by Congolese.
The Congolose reportedly bought the stands from a land baron who was popularly known as Nkomo but is now deceased.
Anti-riot police were deployed to the area on Friday ahead of the demolitions and were ordering people to leave by 3.30 PM.
In December 2022, UFIC founder and leader, Makandiwa gave the illegal settlers time to remove their structures on their own.
One of the evictees told NewsDay that they thought that there would be no demotions since they bought the stands through a ZANU PF “chairman”. He said:
We were aware that Makandiwa was the owner of the land because we were issued notices long back.
We were just relaxed thinking that there would not be demolitions since we bought the stands through ZANU PF “chairman”.
Some stands were sold for between US$10 and US$20. Anyone could wear party regalia and sell. This usually happens towards elections.
Some papers even had the City of Harare stamps. Some stands were advertised on Facebook and unsuspecting people could buy for US$2 000.
UFIC secured a court order to demolish the 300 illegal structures on 19 September 2022 under case no HC3515/21.
Part of the land is earmarked for a housing scheme by UFIC members, Operation Nehemiah Housing Project.
UFIC spokesperson Pastor Prime Kufakunesu told NewsDay that the settlers were given notice on several occasions. He said:
We obtained a court order, but Father Makandiwa gave reprieve to the settlers in December fearing that their property could be damaged by rains.
The people were told several times that the land belonged to UFIC but they have remained at the place.
Land barons were selling the land and we kept telling people it was ours. Maybe they bought out of desperation.
The cleric added that the land was earmarked for an orphanage, church and residential stands.
Kufakunesu said more than 500 housing structures, flats and single houses would be built.
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