HomeLocalOpen letter to Saviour Kasukuwere

Open letter to Saviour Kasukuwere

Dear minister,
Ever since you took over the Local Government ministry from Ignatious Chombo, you have focused your attention on restoring Harare’s sunshine status — a daunting task indeed in an economy as bad as ours.

By Harare resident, Conelia Mabasa.

Mid last year, council police fought ugly battles with vendors in the central business district (CBD), destroying their make-shift shops and stalls, culminating in a mysterious fire breaking out and burning down bales of second-hand clothes that were stashed at the foot bridge across Julius Nyerere Way.

Human rights groups and vendors’ representatives had no kind words for you and the mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, but you argued you had a mandate to carry out.

Mandate or not, minister, you need the people, otherwise there would be nobody to rule over.

People’s voices matter. Their fears and burdens should be listened to. Their inner feelings should be taken into consideration, whatever the case.

There is no situation that ends in a stalemate. Negotiation is give and take and I still believe vendors could have contributed immensely to the debate on the way forward.

Even though alternative hawking stalls were erected outside the city centre, not many people took up the offer, arguing there is not much business outside the CBD and paying rentals would be difficult for them.

The vendors had a plan though; when council workers are done for the day, they troop back onto the streets from their areas of residence to push their wares.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa tried to help your cause by proposing, during the 2016 national budget presentation, to ban the sale of second-hand clothes. Again vendors protested, in a country where the job market is lean, the sale of pre-used clothes is a major source of livelihood. Without a statutory instrument in place, vendors are still shouting on top of their voices to get the attention of passersby.

You grappled with land barons within Harare environs as the man with jurisdiction over the city.

We are yet to see land barons being brought before the courts for trial, acquittal or conviction. Instead of dealing directly with the illegal sellers of land that rightfully belongs to the city council and the leaders of bogus co-operatives, you have gone for the beneficiaries and therein lies the problem. Press reports say so far 1 000 houses have been demolished in Harare with the latest being the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Expressway settlement that went down on Thursday.

Let me hasten to say I am not a victim of last week’s demolitions, neither am I speaking for a relative. I am just appalled by the callousness of it all.

The demolitions at what is commonly referred to as Dunstan Farm, across Harare Drive when one is in Hatfield Kilwinning, are heartrending.

Yes, it is not an area designated for settlement, it is earmarked for airport expansion, but people can apply to council for change of use, which I think should have happened considering there was already construction going on. Why not find common ground, why not try to regularise it?

It is said that President Robert Mugabe is the one who personally ordered the destruction of the houses at the settlement, but where was the local authority when a settlement such as this was going up?

There is a council sub-office in Hatfield [corner Elgin and Fairfield roads]. What do the people there spend the day doing if it takes the presidency to condemn a settlement in their backyard?

If the sub-office was not concerned, how about the owners of the land, why did they not raise alarm?

Harare City Council workers must not confine themselves to the city centre, they must know what is happening in the entire city. A settlement does not sprout in a day.

It makes sense to warn people before they start on any projects by way of public notices. District offices are not there just to receipt rates and water payments.

May I implore the minister to deal with the land barons, not the beneficiaries. The people have been cheated twice; first by the bogus landowners and second, by their own government that has rendered them homeless.

Lifetime savings reduced to a heap in a flash. I believe we can do better than this as a people.

I am not promoting lawlessness, but we all have a right to shelter and I strongly believe this is not the legacy that both Mugabe and you, minister Kasukuwere, want to leave; leaders that fought the people, leaders that rendered them homeless, leaders that stole their source of livelihood.

Reactionary leadership belongs to years gone by. Riding on people’s votes and dumping them later is cold-hearted. Does anyone ever care to think about the fate of the families left out in the open?

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