Harare’s creative community is in shock after City of Harare arrived this afternoon at Moto Republik on Allan Wilson Road in Belgravia to demolish the building citing regulatory issues.
Witnesses report that up to 30 baton-wielding council police were backing up a team of workers who quickly started dismantling the now iconic triple story container structure. It is home to Magamba Network’s various projects, as well as other media, civil society, and creative organisations and freelancers.
Speaking to Harare News Magamba director Samm Monro aka Comrade Fatso said that the attempted demolition was illegal.
“They had no court order whatsoever. We have fully approved plans at city council, we’ve paid various regularisation fees that are due, and we don’t know where this is coming from,” he said.
Harare’s mayor Bernard Manyenyeni was quick to arrive at the scene and intervened on behalf of the Magamba community, though he believes that there are regulatory problems.
Commenting to Harare News he said, “I went to the site and we have deferred enforcement for one week to allow clarity on both sides. Moto Republik represents disruptive innovation and the creative spirit which Harare must capture and be driven by if we are to be a modern city. Having said that I must quickly advise that council building regulations have been flouted hence the tragedy which unfolded today.”
Magamba has been given seven days to pull down the structures before the council trucks return.
Even if there are regulatory problems with the building, City of Harare has a battle on its hands as the hashtag #SaveMotoRepublik took off even as the first cuts were being made on the building. It is a hashtag campaign that is likely to gain a lot of traction online and on the ground as Moto Republik is close to the hearts of many of Harare’s urban artists, activists, and media professionals.
Comrade Fatso lamented the decision saying, “Why, when our city and country is in such a tough situation does city council have to use scarce resources tearing apart one of the only sources of inspiration and hope in the city? What’s the reason behind this? This is the first creative hub in Zimbabwe, it’s a space where hundreds of young bloggers, designers, animators, and creatives come through to work and collaborate to come up with big projects that drive our country forward. Why does city council have to destroy one of the only spaces of innovation in our city that’s providing jobs for people?”
He appealed for support as they confront this decision, with more information to be given out at a press conference tomorrow.
“We are going to fight this and stop this,” he said. “Meanwhile anyone who cares about Moto Republik should call their councillor, the Mayor, and the Minister Kasukuwere to ask them to stop the demolition. If they are about creating jobs for young people, then they will.”
Harare News is waiting for comment from Harare’s planning department who issued the order. They have promised to send a full report on Tuesday.
Whether legal or not, the demolition of Moto Republik is likely to be labelled as punishment for the political programming carried out by Magamba, including Zambezi News, Open Parly, Kalabash media, and more recently The Week – a satirical news roundup that hits hard at some of Zimbabwe’s most senior political figures.
Image: Council police and workers at Moto Republik today. Source: Privilege Musvanhiri on Facebook