Rubber bullets, teargas used during Katima demolitions

Obrein Simasiku

Approximately 300 mud houses illegally constructed at Lwanyanda, a self-proclaimed settlement in Katima Mulilo, were reduced to rubble today as the Town Council executed an order as granted by the High Court to evict and demolish illegal structures on municipal land.

The same will be done in Cowboy and Diary. This was after the Katima Mulilo sought relief from the High Court seeking an order to have thousands of people who illegally occupied these areas are removed, after numerous attempts to have them vacate voluntary failed. In the same vein council had availed land at Nova to accommodate all those to be removed from the areas in question.

The removals were however met with stiff resistance, since 2016 by residents who claimed they bought the land from the Mafwe traditional authority. However, it was established that the land belonged to town council, but still they refused to budge.

During today’s removal, things turned ugly in the early morning, as residents retaliated by throwing stones to officials and the bulldozer.

The police had to be called in to restore order but the stone throwing continued resulting in some officers getting injured including the station commander, Chris Mayumbelo. who sustained injuries to his hands. As a result, the special reserve force members had to be roped in, and had to use teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the unruly crowd.

Three men including a pastor and two women were arrested.

“I am speaking from behind the cells now, we were arrested this morning because I spoke to the media briefing them of what is happening. While the others were involved in skirmishes with the police as they attempt to block the bulldozer from demolishing and subsequently the police,” said activist Moses who doubles as a pastor.

His church was part of the structures destroyed.

“I dont have all the details now to provide in depth of what really transpired and if they are people who were arrested and under what terms. Also I was not on the ground, so i am waiting for a detailed report,” said community affairs officer, Inspector Kisco Sitali.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Nehemia Joseph, could neither deny nor confirm the clashes, instead he said the situation is calm and that order has been restored. “It is calm now, I cannot tell much because I do not know whether you are truly a journalist or not, in addition I have to brief the regional commander, before releasing all details,” he said.

Town council CEO Raphael Liswaniso wanted nothing to do with the situation, despite the situation culminating as a result of the council’s legal route to seek recourse. “I am not permitted to talk, maybe engage the sheriff, for now there is really nothing to say because we are not handling the matter,” he said, despite this reporter pressing further.

Equally, town mayor Lister Shamalaza said he will only brief this reporter after assessing the situation on the ground, but this was not done by the time of going to print.

This reporter is reliably informed that some belongings were destroyed in the process of demolition.

By Observer