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Youths target empty buildings in Bulawayo

Zanu-PF youths — in collaboration with senior party bigwigs — are spearheading the illegal invasion of buildings and properties in Bulawayo under the guise of empowerment.

A resolution passed in Bulawayo last week by Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Zanu-PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo and Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu will now pave the way for Zanu-PF youths to take over nearly 70 unoccupied buildings in the city. Since August Zanu-PF youths have started invading buildings and property owned by Indians, Italians and the European community in Bulawayo. Invaded properties include the Italian-owned Pizzaghetti and the Maggos, Elons and Centenary buildings. Among these are some owned by the Esats family, a wealthy Indian family involved in textile and clothing businesses in the city.

Amen Mpofu, the deputy mayor of Bulawayo, said: “These invasions are making it really difficult for the city council to attract investors. The city council, in partnership with various stakeholders in the city, is working day and night trying to address the issue of company relocations in the city, but it seems other people have their own political agendas.”

Police have been criticised for treating the youth invaders with kid gloves, leaving scores of property owners crying foul. The owner of Maggos building, David Naidoo, said: “I was in South Africa when my caretaker informed me that my property had been invaded by Zanu-PF youths. After that I was forced to abandon my business in South Africa and flew back to sort out the issue. The youths refused to vacate my property and as I speak they are still camping on my premises.”

Despite repeated attempts by Naidoo to speak to Zanu-PF’s provincial leadership about the invasion of his property, the party’s leadership has maintained there will be no “backtracking” on the invasions. Meanwhile, a court judgment last week ordered the arrest of 10 Zanu-PF youths for invading several properties in the city.

It is understood from Zanu-PF insiders that companies which have shut down their operations in Bulawayo have been earmarked for seizure by the Zanu-PF youths.

According to the industry and trade ministry, nearly 87 companies have shut down in Bulawayo since 2010 and an estimated 20 000 workers have been affected by the closures. With Zanu-PF’s December congress scheduled for Bulawayo, party hawks are said to be increasingly pushing for quick action for company takeovers and have issued “a two-week ultimatum” to the leadership in Bulawayo to provide a comprehensive list of companies that can be reopened.

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Ray Ndlovu
Ray Ndlovu has been a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian in Zimbabwe since 2009. His areas of interest include politics and business. With a BSc honours degree in journalism and media studies, Ray aspires to become a media mogul.

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