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Distraught elfort residents lament Zanu PF betrayal

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CHILDREN sweep the dusty floor inside a wooden cabin as they prepare their bedding ahead of what promises to be a cold night.
NYASHA CHINGONO
Their grandmother, Tendai Ramwidzai (57), is making dinner on a makeshift stove in a shack made from empty bags of cement.
Ramwidzai (pictured) and her three grandchildren are picking up the pieces after horrific demolitions last week in Melfort, 40 kilometres east of Harare, where other residents are also bitterly counting their losses.
The Murambatsvina-styled demolitions, ordered by Goromonzi Rural District Council, wreaked havoc in the settlement occupied by Zanu PF youths several years ago.
Ramwidzai and her family have been sleeping in the cold for days.
When she wakes up every morning, her blankets are always wet from the dew.
The winter nights have not been kind to Ramwidzai’s grandchildren, who have been exposed to the harsh realities of life.
She sleeps inside the shack to protect her little belongings from marauding thieves who may take advantage of the chaos in the area.
Ramwidzai weeps as she recounts the horrific demolitions.
“When I heard that officials were on their way, I quickly rushed inside the wooden cabin to save my little property. This is all I have, and I could not let them destroy it,” she tells The NewsHawks.
Having moved from Sunningdale to Melfort early this year, Ramwidzai thought she would finally have a home of her own.
She had already planted a flourishing garden and was planning a chicken project when the demolitions happened.
But fate would not allow her the pleasures of life as disaster struck.
“Everyone was crying, we had no one to help us. I have nowhere to go, others have gone to Melfort location to rent houses, but I have nothing. I just have to stay here until everything is ok,” Ramwidzai said.
The 57-year-old is lucky, she did not lose a fully built house like her neighbour who lost a complete dwelling.
Her makeshift house was spared by sheer luck after a group of boys removed it before the excavators came to destroy houses in her neighbourhood.
“We got this cabin back today and my grandchildren are helping me to clean it so we can move back,” she said.
As residents struggle to come to terms with the demolitions which sparked outrage on social media, Melfort is a sea of rubble.
There is no sign that beautiful homes used to stand in the area, save for remnants of asbestos roof sheeting, spared by thieves in the area who have taken advantage of the mayhem to steal.
Enock Dzapasi (38) stoops to rinse his dirty shirt in a backet as his friend rests on a mattress after a day’s toil.
Dzapasi  also lost his home during the demolitions.
His wife and four children had to seek refuge in a nearby village in Goromonzi.
“My wife and children took our property to the village, I could not let them sleep in the cold. I am trying to at least sell my bricks so that I have something to take home,” he said.
Lost in thought, Dzapasi gazes at the remains of his home.
“This was my home, brother. I built it from my sweat, and it pains me to see it reduced to rubble. I had done all I can to create a decent life for my family, but poverty is hunting me down like a thief,” he said with a sigh.
He explains how he got the residential stand.
“I am part of the Zanu PF youths who got stands last year. There are also war veterans, the disabled and even police officers in this area. I never paid a single cent for this stand, and this is true for others,” he said.
His friend Blessing Gweshe (31) cannot believe his house is gone.
“I am still in shock. I cannot believe all I worked for is gone. This is insane,” Gweshe said.
“My wife and children now stay with a relative until I get back on my feet. It seems the leaders have forgotten about us. They are not picking calls, maybe they are busy rectifying this mess,” he added.
Facing widespread condemnation from the public over the cruel demolitions, Zanu PF made a u-turn early this week, ordering a stop to the demolitions.
Having caused untold suffering in Melfort, Chitungwiza and Mbare, where there were similar demolitions, Zanu PF came to the “rescue”, ordering officials to halt the demolitions.
Local Government minister July Moyo and National Housing and Amenities minister Daniel Garwe were summoned to Zanu PF headquarters for a hastily arranged meeting and ordered a stop to the destruction with immediate effect.
“We summoned the two ministers responsible for urban planning and that of national housing, July Moyo and Daniel Garwe, respectively. We want to put it on record that Garwe came for the meeting while Moyo was spoken to on the phone and he agreed to the outcome of the meeting,” Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu told a Press conference.
In Melfort, Garwe is accused of creating the “mess”.
“The houses were destroyed without any warning. The summons were signed by the officials at the Goromonzi Rural District Council,” a Zanu PF youth leader in Melfort who was responsible for parcelling out tracts of land told The NewsHawks. 
“Daniel Garwe used to come here and saw what was happening. He even encouraged us not to dig wells but promised that we would get boreholes instead. He also ordered the company that was doing roads to speed up,” he added.
The youth leader said President Emmerson Mnangagwa had been earmarked to officiate at a ground-breaking ceremony in Melfort but failed to come despite all the arrangements.
“There was also a Joint Operations Command meeting which included top officials to discuss the regularisation of our stay here. We were shocked to see a top official tweeting that Melfort demolitions were pending. It did not take time before the demolitions began,” he said.
He described how the police, armed with truncheons and guns and dogs stormed Melfort as the demolitions began.
“People were crying, they did not know what to do. It was a complete disaster. This was followed by massive looting of building material. Someone wanted to benefit from our loss,” the Zanu PF youth leader said.
Most of the people whose houses were destroyed are Zanu PF members, who allocated themselves stands.
They feel betrayed by the party leaders. They never imagined that they could be victims as long as the Zanu PF government was in power.
But for now, they are counting their losses despite belated intervention by Zanu PF leaders who ordered the government to halt the demolitions.

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