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Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) statement on demolitions of illegal structures
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
November 11
, 2013

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) joins the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Heal Zimbabwe Trust, Chitungwiza Residents Trust and other like-minded organizations in expressing grave concern over the recent demolition of illegal structures in Ruwa and Damofalls.

The government’s intention to upscale the callous operation by invading areas such as Chitungwiza is unsettling as it comes just eight years after a similar and controversial exercise was conducted under the auspices of Operation Murambatsvina in May 2005.

Whilst the need and legal justification to rid the cities of illegal settlements and structures are unassailable, it is worrying that the rights of poor people could once again be violated.

Notably, the government has not yet provided a clear framework of resettlement to ensure that the fundamental rights of the displaced people to shelter will not be violated.

Other rights include, as in the new Constitution of Zimbabwe’s Declaration of rights, the Right to Human Dignity (Section 51), which Section 86 (3) (b) says may not be limited; Freedom from Degrading Treatment (Section 53); Freedom of Residence and Freedom from Arbitrary Eviction (Section 74).

Particularly, Section 74 says: “No person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.”

The Coalition draws the government’s attention to the fact that the 2005 demolitions were particularly condemned by the United Nations (UN) for failing to respect the human rights of the displaced people to shelter, especially the responsibility to ensure that families, including children are not rendered completely homeless.

In the new Constitution Section 86 (2) (a) clearly states that the freedom from arbitrary eviction or right to property can only be limited “to the extent that the limitation is fair reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including the nature of the right or freedom concerned.”

The fact that the demolition exercise will not be the first of its kind in less than 10 years shows that the government has failed to address the fundamental problem and causative factors as well as employing preventative measures to deal with the issue of illegal settlements.

We urge the government to take a hard look at itself, and acknowledge its dismal failure to monitor housing dynamics such as the housing backlog and shortages, and the operations of dubious cooperatives, leading to the mushrooming of illegal settlements.

The government should deal with the cancerous corruption and its ineptitude to address the same as a way of attending to the unsanctioned and illegal parcelling out of undesignated land by unscrupulous politicians.

The government of Zimbabwe must fully implement the recommendations of the June 2005 Tibaijuka report where the UN Special envoy implored the government of Zimbabwe to halt any further demolitions and facilitate a humanitarian operation in a gender sensitive and pro-poor fashion to provide security of tenure in urban and rural areas alike, affordable housing, water and sanitation. The Special envoy also encouraged the government of Zimbabwe to create a regulated and enabling environment for small-scale income-generating activities; revise outdated colonial laws regulating urban settlement, including the Regional Town and Country Planning Act, adapt to the social, economic and cultural realities facing the majority of poor Zimbabweans; hold accountable those responsible for the injuries caused by the operation and pay compensation where it is due to those whose houses were unlawfully demolished.

The above recommendations were not implemented in letter and spirit and we therefore urge the government of Zimbabwe to do the honorable thing by implementing the Tibaijuka recommendations before inflicting further suffering upon innocent people. In addition we urge the government to respect the supremacy of the constitution, show respect for fundamental rights, ensure protection of livelihoods and sanctity of human life as well as transparency in addressing the root causes of the illegal settlements.

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