HARARE City Council practises double standards against the poorer communities when it comes to demolition of illegal structures, according to information in The Standard’s possession.
Paidamoyo Muzulu /Zisunko Ndlovu
While illegal structures in high-density suburbs where mostly poor people live are destroyed without any measure of restraint, similar illegal structures located in affluent settlements are regularised and left to stand, it has emerged.
The council has, inside three weeks, left hundreds of poor families homeless after demolishing their houses, yet the iconic Sam Levy Village and the Celebration Centre, both irregular settlements according to city council documents,
still stand years after their illegal construction.
City director of Works, Engineer Phillip Pfukwa confirmed that the two buildings in the affluent suburb of Borrowdale were built without requisite regulatory permission as outlined in the Regional Town and Country Planning
Act. Their construction also breached the Urban Councils Act and other relevant statutes, operative schemes and local plans.
The development at Sam Levy Village and the Office Park behind it took place without regulatory approval, but today they still stand, in what seems proof that the rich can get away with illegal activities while the poor count their losses.
“Initially, the development had no permit and was not permitted by the then Operative Scheme.
However, the development was regularised through Local Plan 32 known as Borrowdale Local Plan 32 which zoned the area Suburban/Commercial,” Pfukwa said.
The developments were also initially meant to use septic tanks but were later connected to the Gunhill reticulated sewer through a pump station that was specifically designed for that purpose.
The Sam Levy Village was completed in 1993 and got retrospective approvals.
On the other hand, the Celebration Centre situated on 132 Swan Drive in Borrowdale was built with material that does not comply with the city’s building by-laws.
“The Celebration [Centre] issue pertains to the building technology and building material used which did not comply with the local authority building by-laws,” Pfukwa confirmed.
He added, “A departure committee has since been set up to deliberate on the matter and the outcome is still to be known.”’
The city director for planning said the council had the power to enforce compliance with planning laws and city by-laws, but this was done in stages.
“Relevant enforcement action is taken to ensure compliance; that is giving a notice to regularise and a demolition order in extreme cases,” he said.
Isaac Levy, son to the late businessman (Sam Levy) who inherited his father’s business did not respond to questions that were sent to him.
The city recently sent bulldozers to pull down illegally built houses in Budiriro without court orders or giving the developers an opportunity to regularise their properties.
Demolitions in Budiriro, Warren Park and Westlea were only stopped after the residents applied to the High Court contesting the illegal action.